New York Thinly Disguises Another Gun Control Bill as Environmentalism

outdoor rifle shooting range
Courtesy Odom Shooting Range

By Jake McGuigan

There must be something in the water in the Hudson River. First it was the Bronx and Queens when U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asserted — with zero scientific evidence — that traditional lead hunting ammunition “poisons everything in sight.” Now, anti-hunting Democratic lawmakers in the state’s capital are pushing an egregiously anti-hunting bill under the guise of being “neighborly.”

Don’t fall for any of it. It’s a bunch of baloney to punish good, law-abiding Americans who are actually responsible for the stewardship of America’s wildlife and habitat – hunters. You know, the people at whom anti-hunter, anti-gun politicians like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others deride, sneer and label as poor souls.”

The anti-science push to punish hunters is making its way up the Hudson River to Albany. Proposed legislation there has New Yorkers who live upstate and anywhere outside the New York City area concerned, and for good reason.

‘Good Neighbor’ Nonsense

As local news outlet North Country Now appropriately describes, “A newly proposed bill in the New York Senate is a gun control law being presented under the guise of an environmental law.”

It’s a familiar play run by gun control and anti-hunting activists when they know they can’t win on the merits. In this case, it’s New York State Democratic Sen. Peter Harchkham. He represents downstate Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties just a bit north of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district.

Sen. Harchkham’s bill, deceivingly titled “The Sporting Range Good Neighbor Act,” would implement stringent regulations on the locations and potential size of recreational sport shooting ranges if they are in close proximity to waterways, marshes, wetlands and open water sources. It sits in a state Senate committee at the moment for consideration but has already received two amendments that would broaden the restrictions beyond trap and skeet ranges to include rifle and pistol ranges at rod and gun clubs.

In upstate New York, lawmakers in the North Country were having none of Sen. Harchkham’s proposed bill. They decried the deceitful purpose and urged DEC to reject it out of hand. St. Lawrence County legislators even passed a resolution at their recent operations committee meeting that calls on state officials to scrap the bill.

“Let’s just call it what it is. It’s an attack on the Second Amendment,” said Norwood Legislator Glenn Webster, who proposed the resolution of rejection.

Fellow St. Lawrence Country Legislator Jim Reagan voiced similar concerns. He decried Sen. Harchkham’s bill as just another example of downstate politicians attempting to pass anti-hunting, anti-gun legislation because “they do not understand our way of life in the North Country.”

“This has to be fought every way. It is an attack on lawful gun ownership,” Reagan said. “Once they get their toe in the door, the rest of them are coming in.”

Legislator Ben Hull added his perspective. “I see this as an attempt to extinguish a cultural heritage of responsible gun ownership and usage for may be a marginal benefit to the environment. But at what cost?”

Cost and Science

Legislator Hull brings up a salient point. The push to eliminate the heritage and traditions of responsible gun owners and hunters who use recreational shooting ranges to pass on skills, education and training to the next generation of outdoorsmen and women conservationists is brought by those who have no science to back up their claims and no regard for the consequential costs of their policies. A similar anti-conservation scheme was seen recently farther south in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.

At a Congressional hearing, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez pleaded with Republicans not to adopt a proposal that would require the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to provide site-specific, peer-reviewed scientific data that demonstrates traditional lead ammunition or fishing tackle is causing detrimental wildlife population impacts before prohibiting their use on federal lands. It’s the same line of concern brought by New York state Sen. Harchkham back in Albany.

“H.R. 615 would prohibit the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service from prohibiting or regulating lead ammunition or tackle on federal lands and waters – even though alternatives do exist that do not poison everything in sight,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez read during testimony. Republicans on the House of RepresentativesNatural Resources Committee, she said, “are putting forward an agenda brought to you by G.O.P. – guns, oil and polluters.”

Hornady .30 caliber rifle ammunition

Except – it’s all a lie. Traditional lead-based ammunition doesn’t “poison everything in sight,” and doesn’t lead to detrimental environmental impacts on federal lands or in New York. There is zero scientific evidence that suggests such a thing. That’s because the use by hunters and recreational target shooters – like thousands in New York – doesn’t pose a risk, not to humans nor the environment.

N.Y. state Sen. Harchkham and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez aren’t the only ones making the absurd anti-hunting, anti-science claim. Officials within the Biden administration regularly push policies that restrict and penalize hunters on the very public lands that their hunting and recreational shooting activities benefit.

Bait and Switch

Biden administration executives have used their perches to push prohibitions on traditional hunting and recreational shooting activities for a few years. It started in 2022, when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) codified a Final Rule that presented hunters with a “bait-and-switch” deal that banned the use of traditional ammunition while opening 18 National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) for new hunting and fishing opportunities. USFWS claimed it “remains concerned that lead ammunition and fishing tackle have negative impacts on both human health and wildlife.” It also warned hunters that the future use on additional USFWS lands were open to evaluation. NSSF condemned that decision.

It’s been similar nonsense ever since and no Biden administration official has yet to offer Congressional leaders with oversight responsibilities any evidence to support what they’re doing, even stepping on their own toes about what the science says and how they interpret it.

Martha Williams USFWS US fish wildlife service director testify
Martha Williams, Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

USFWS Director Martha Williams was flummoxed at Congressional oversight testimony in 2023. She couldn’t provide answers on why their decision was made and what science supported the bans.

More recently, Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland answered questions in a Congressional hearing and was open about her lack of evidence behind decisions to prohibit traditional ammunition. Rep. Wittman (R-Va.) used time in a House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing to press Secretary Haaland on the science and data behind the Biden administration’s actions that banned traditional ammunition on some wildlife refuges. After asking her for the evidence and scientific studies used to determine the decision, Sec. Haaland demurred, stating, “I can’t cite those for you at the moment.”

Elected officials like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in Washington, D.C., and state Sen. Harchkham in Albany lack the very basic understanding of how important hunters and recreational shooters are to protecting and preserving America’s woods, wildlife and wetlands. They don’t get and can’t understand why their anti-hunting, anti-science positions are problematic.

What’s worse is they continue to pursue and push these proposals even though the science tells them they’re dead wrong.


Jake McGuigan is the Managing Director for Government Relations, State Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

4 Responses

  1. Until the cancer is removed from the host it will continue to metastasize until it kills it. If Allowed.

  2. At the federal level, eliminate the USFWS! And a lot of other agencies while you’re at it.

  3. Notice Democrats NEVER have to answer any question or provide proof of anything they legislate or propose? Never.

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