Toxic Ammo Now Banned in Minnesota: All firearms ammunition has the capability of killing of course, but there has been a movement towards so-called “nontoxic” ammunition. It isn’t any less “lethal” when used in hunting, but it is meant to be better for the environment, say supporters. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently announced that it would now enact new regulations requiring nontoxic bullets and shotgun shot used in state parks and state scientific and natural areas where special hunts are held.
The DNR said in December, that the changes “will be implemented over the next year through orders or DNR procedures that do not require changes to Minnesota rules or statutes. We will provide more details on the implementation and timeline of the changes as they are available.”
The Great Toxic Ammo Debate
Supporters of nontoxic shot for hunting in the Gopher State have called for a much broader regulation that would require unleaded shot for all hunting, or at least on all state-managed lands. They have argued that lead from spent bullets and shot is toxic to animals, especially raptors including eagles that often feed on dead animals.
Currently, all forms of hunting are generally prohibited in most of Minnesota’s 166 SNAs and 66 state parks. However, about 70 of the state’s 166 scientific and natural areas (SNAs) are open to limited types of hunting. During the 2021 deer season, there were more than 50 special rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader deer hunts in the state parks.
The new regulations in Minnesota are expected to impact only a few thousand hunters, however, out of more than 400,000 deer hunters in the state, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “Non-toxic ammunition is made from bismuth, tungsten, tin, or copper. There are also lead bullets coated with nontoxic metals, but the bullet is considered harmful if it contains more than 1% lead. The term non-toxic has traditionally been used to refer to shotgun shells used for hunting waterfowl.”
No Toxic Ammo Means the End of Led Ammo?
In June 2019, California became the first state to ban all lead ammunition for hunting. It was put in place to significantly decrease the risk that leftover fragments of spent lead bullets and shot will poison wildlife such as hawks, owls, eagles and critically endangered California condors.
Other states such as Maine, New York, and Wisconsin have seen similar pushes to ban lead ammunition. In California, lead ammunition can only be used at gun ranges – and some have even called for it to be banned completely.
However, critics warn that the efforts have gone too far.
“There has long been a concern about lead ammo,” Mark Olivia, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, said last year. “There has been that big push in Europe, but we’re carefully watching what is happening over here as well. It started with the condor, but now there is no use of lead for hunting anywhere in California.”
Olivia added, “This is a creeping issue. It is really another way to limit our Second Amendment rights but also to hunt.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.