DFL lead ammo bill threatens popular school shooting teams

DFL legislators aiming to ban lead-based ammunition might as well have pinned a bullseye on the thousands of high school students who participate in the wildly popular sport of clay target shooting. One of the leading proponents of getting the lead out insists she only wants to help keep kids safe, according to the Prior Lake American.

State Sen. Jennifer McEwen, DFL-Duluth, is one of the two state senators, along with eight from the state House, who introduced the bill. She issued a statement, stating students who participate in shooting sports are in danger of lead poisoning.

“Lead exposure through ammunition poses a serious threat to human health, particularly for those involved in hunting, shooting sports, and firearm maintenance,” she said. “By transitioning to non-toxic alternatives, we can mitigate the adverse impacts of lead pollution on Minnesotans, the environment, and wildlife.”

“I support keeping our kids safe as they take part in shooting sports, which is why I’m dedicated to furthering legislative solutions to address this dire public and environmental health concern,” she continued.

But high school coaches and other opponents maintain the proposed legislation threatens the viability of the state’s fastest-growing high school sport with participation from more boys and girls than hockey. They shoot down the suggestion it’s about anything more than politics.

The bill would force all shooting leagues to use nontoxic ammunition at all practices, competitions, training and other events starting Nov. 1. The legislation would also stop funding for shooting sports facilities that do not ban lead ammunition.

“Youth clay target shooting sports in Minnesota is not a public health issue,” John Nelson, President of the Eagan-based USA Clay Target League, said in a press release. “By specifically targeting youth shooting sports, it becomes clear that this is an attack on a school-approved activity that they don’t like.

The idea that there are over 50,000 Minnesota students that have participated in the league since 2001 that have never had an accident, never had an injury, despite shooting a shotgun over 100 million times, goes contrary to their preferred narrative.”

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League estimates the cost of swapping out lead ammo at a whopping $10 million a year, roughly $700 per student. Moreover, gun ranges already operate under requirements to remove and reclaim land on a regular basis.

[Jordan trap shooting coach Jeff] Radick’s program is also part of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, finishing fifth in the Class 4A state competition last June. He said if the legislation passes, the affects on his program, and others, would be severe.

“Non-lead target ammunition is very limited and very expensive,” Radick said. “It is so limited at the current time, I don’t think price is even a current concern. If passed, non-lead target ammunition would simply become not available to programs like ours. The availability in the ammunition industry is just now recovering from all the effects of the pandemic,” Radick added. “If you extrapolate that experience forward, I would anticipate our program would have to take a three to five-year pause from any participation in the league.”

The proposed ban, however, has kicked up opposition from all corners of the state. High school clay target shooting leagues may be under fire in St. Paul, but legislators can also expect to face a barrage of questions back home.