Open Letter to Gun Manufacturers: Stop Hiding on our Public Lands

Dear Gun Manufacturers, including Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA:

If I wasn’t so disturbed by what you’ve done, I might be impressed. For decades, you’ve successfully hidden in the enormous shadow of the National Rifle Association (NRA) while your reputation has remained remarkably unscathed. You funnel tens of millions of dollars to the NRA through corporate sponsorships while they happily take the bullet for your dangerous political handiwork. When 17 students, faculty, and staff were murdered in the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, it was the NRA—not you—that sat on the stage of a CNN town hall dodging questions from grief-stricken parents and peers. Your ability to evade the hot seat is remarkable. 

But your time is up. The American public is starting to realize that you’re the one lurking behind the NRA curtain. The survivors of the Parkland shooting are taking action to bring you into the spotlight. Corporations are cutting ties with both you and the NRA in droves. We know it’s your pocketbook that has made the NRA what it is today—not a protector of freedoms, but the gun industry’s personal lackey in pushing policies to help you sell as many guns and gun accessories as possible.

Unfortunately, recent headlines have only begun to scratch the surface of how far the NRA will go for you. You’ve managed to cram your agenda deep within the nooks and crannies of even the most unexpected policies and legislation. One area in which you have regrettably had some success is especially dear to me—America’s prized public lands.

As the Ranking Member of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, I have been repeatedly dismayed to find your dirty fingerprints on public lands legislation. In September of this past year, Republicans in my committee passed Rep Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act strictly along party lines. The bill was supposed to help hunters access public lands, but was instead a laundry list of giveaways to gun manufacturers, including provisions that would make it easier to purchase gun silencers, make it harder to regulate armor-piercing bullets, and ban the regulation of lead ammunition. Although the bill was expected to reach the House floor for a vote, it was pulled from consideration the day after the mass shooting in Las Vegas due to these NRA-backed provisions.

After that bill was pulled, I introduced a sportsmen’s bill called the Authorizing Critical Conservation for Sportsmen and Sportswomen (ACCESS) Act with Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). This bill expands access to public lands for hunters and fishers without the dangerous provisions—because no one needs armor-piercing lead bullets shot through silencers to hunt. It has yet to be taken up by my committee.  

The NRA has also done your bidding in successfully opposing any effort to regulate lead ammunition. Lead is a deadly toxin. A single ingested lead shotgun pellet can cause brain damage in birds. Humans who eat meat from animals killed with lead ammunition are at-risk because lead is highly fragmentable and can be nearly impossible to fully remove. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly states that there is no safe blood level for children. Although lead exposure affects every system in the human body, the developmental delays and behavior problems are particularly worrisome. Three recent studies link lead exposure to increased rates of school suspensions, violent crime arrests, and homicide.

The dangers of lead ammunition are clear. Nevertheless, one of the first actions taken by the Trump administration’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke—a longtime friend of the NRA—was reversing a Director’s Order that banned the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands. Though the ban has now been reversed for over a year, Republicans in the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently doubled down on their criticism of it by issuing a memo to all Republican members outlining their grievances.

Even more alarming, the omnibus bill that just passed through Congress includes a provision that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from using any funding to regulate lead in ammunition, ammunition components, or fishing tackle. It appears you are intent on not just killing us quickly with assault rifles and bump stocks, but also killing us slowly through lead exposure.

Gun manufacturers, we know you have been powerful for a long time. We know you give lots of money to the NRA to keep that power. We know you will use any tactic you can to get your way, including sneaking your way into public lands policies and legislation. But I want you to know that we see you. And I want to make sure that everyone else sees you too, no matter how dark or deep the crevice in which you’re hiding.

By:  Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
Source: Daily Kos