Bloomberg Law
July 1, 2019, 10:09 PM

California Becomes First State to Ban Lead Bullets for Hunting

Emily C. Dooley
Emily C. Dooley
Staff Correspondent

Hunters looking for targets on private and public lands in California must now use non-leaded bullets when aiming for wildlife.

With a comprehensive ban taking effect July 1, California becomes the first state to fully phase out the use of lead bullets for hunting. The Legislature passed a bill in 2013 to ban the ammunition, in part to protect wildlife.

The ban was phased in, initially occurring in state-run wildlife areas and ecological reserves. A second phase in 2016 banned lead for shooting upland game birds and small game mammals with a shotgun.

The leading cause of death for California condors—an endangered species since 1967—is lead poisoning. Officials say the condors can ingest lead as they scavenge entrails that hunters leave behind.

Health officials say no safe exposure level exists for lead, which can cause anemia, developmental problems in children, and other ill health effects.

“We have removed lead from paint, pencils, pipes, and now from use in ammunition for hunting,” Defenders of Wildlife California program director Kim Delfino said in a statement. “Hopefully California’s effort sets a precedent for the rest of the country to enact similar requirements of the use of non-toxic ammunition.”

Ammunition Inspections

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Fish and Game Commission have certified non-leaded ammunition from nearly 60 manufacturers. Wildlife officers will inspect hunters’ ammunition, the agency said.

The National Rifle Association and California Rifle & Pistol Association opposed the bill.

The California association and other groups sued California in U.S. District Court in Southern California in April 2018 challenging the regulations. The case is pending.

Olympic gold medal-winning double trap and skeet shooter Kim Rhode is serving as lead plaintiff “and is joined by several other law-abiding California gun owners and out-of-state businesses who can no longer sell ammunition directly to their California customers,” the group said on its website.

The group didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Environment’s request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily C. Dooley at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Chuck McCutcheon at