New Iowa State University President Steven Leath's recent suggestion to phase out lead shot might upset some hunters, but Ames outdoor retailers said they wouldn't mind such a proposal.
Shane Skala, a manager at Theisen's Home in Ames, said the store sells plenty of lead shot and some steel shot. Skala, who hunts himself, wouldn't be opposed to a ban, so long as there was an equal alternative.
“It makes no difference to me. I'm a hunter, I know that lead has its bad effects,” Skala said.
Leath, who just started in the new job and is a hunter himself, made the comment during a Des Moines Register editorial board interview on Wednesday.
“If it were phased in, I think it would be a lot better on the small store owners and manufacturers who have this inventory,” Leath said in response to a Register reporter's question. “I don’t think it is so dire it needs to be done today. But there are a lot of alternatives.”
The comment seems harmless, but the topic of banning lead shot has aroused strong feelings, and it has been a point of contention in the Iowa Legislature, as reported by The Gazette.
Environmentalists have urged hunters to use nontoxic shot, which is already a requirement on some public and private hunting lands because of the harmful effects of lead poisoning on birds and other animals.
Sen. Dick Dearden, D- Des Moines, said the controversy wasn't so much about lead but dove hunting in general. He said the Iowa DNR commission prohibted lead shot in dove hunting because some members didn't want dove hunting at all.
Dearden said even he wouldn't be against a lead shot ban.
“If there's a viable alternative that's reasonably priced and has the same efficiency I could agree with it,” he said.
Some hunters say other forms of ammunition don't fire the same and are more expensive.
Leath suggested phasing out lead shot over time so that hunting supply stores could gradually sell down their inventory.
Jax Outdoor Gear sells lead shot, and nontoxic steel shot, tungsten shot and bismuth shot, said employee Wadih Fakhouri.
“We have lots of lead shot to sell, but honestly it wouldn't put a lot of heartache on us. We sell a lot of steel shot already,” Fakhouri said.
Some forms of nontoxic shot can damage some guns and vintage weapons. A serious hunter might have to spend thousands of dollars to replace their gun collections so that they could use nontoxic shot, Fakhouri said.
“It would be like asking everyone in Iowa to buy a new car,” he said.
If a ban were implemented, the outdoor store would likely send its lead stock to a location without a ban in place.
Leath's comment on phasing out lead shot was never meant to be a position statement, a university spokesman said recently.
Executive director of University Relations John McCarroll said Leath made the comment when a curious reporter asked where Leath stood on the issue. Leath had been photographed hunting in a previous Register story.