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Process to restrict lead shot pushed back

Shooting associations welcome the six-month delay as it means the HSE “will take into account more evidential fact” on a divisive subject

A ban on lead ammunition will affect every aspect of shooting, both in terms of game and targets

There has been an “overwhelming response” since the launch of the consultation under UK REACH on restricting the use of lead ammunition, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) — which has put back publication of its findings by another six months. (Read more on HSE plan to effectively ban lead ammunition here.) 

The consultation garnered 2,759 responses, nine times the number of submissions compared with a similar consultation exercise across the EU. It included two major academic reports from the Gun Trade Association on the transition times that the cartridge manufacturers would need to produce alternatives. 

Post-pandemic global supply challenges mean that re-tooling the production lines and developing new supply chains would take at least four-and-a-half years. A restriction on the sale and use of lead cartridges before that time would decimate the shooting industry. There would not be the 260 million cartridges needed across all UK sporting activities. 

Strong pushback

The HSE’s initial report recommended banning lead in all shotgun, rifle and air rifle ammunition, which resulted in strong pushback from trade and shooting sports groups alike. The consultation period was six months.

HSE is now moving the expected date of publishing its opinions, along with a response to the consultation, by six months until February 2024.

Dr Richard Daniels, HSE’s director of chemicals regulation division, said: “It has been really encouraging to see the level of interest received, underlining that it is important we get this exercise right for the benefit of affected groups, people’s health and the environment.

Andrew Mercer, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, told Shooting Times: “We welcome the decision to allow more time for detailed consultations and visits to ranges. Shooting, both target and live quarry, is very diverse and the potential impact of lead ammunition on human health and the environment varies enormously depending on how rifles, pistols and shotguns are used.”

Gun Trade Association chairman Oskar Waktare added: “The six-month extension is positive news because it means that the HSE will take into account far more evidential fact than was obtained in compiling [its] initial public consultation. 

“Ultimately, a ban on the use of lead ammunition has far-reaching consequences and we need to ensure we are prepared for any proposed legislation.”