What the Media is Not Telling You About Future Lead Ammo Shortages

Both the left and the right have disputed Col. Allen West’s claim that President Obama is engaging in backdoor gun control by using the EPA to close down America’s primary lead smelter.

Col. West argued that without lead, gun manufacturers cannot make conventional ammunition, and accuses Obama of using backdoor gun control tactics to weaken the 2nd Amendment. Lawrence Keane, the senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents the ammunitions and firearms industry, told the Washington Times, “Manufacturers use recycled lead to make ammunition. They don’t buy from smelters.”

“The EPA closing, which has been in the works for a while, will have no impact on production, supply or cost to the consumers,” said Keane. I called the NSSF, but they could not be reached for comment.

What is unclear is how gun manufacturers will get their additional lead supply? Secondary smelters have only recycled lead from manufacturers. Secondary smelters only provide the service of processing the lead, which is then returned to the manufacturers.

I contacted the smelter set to close, which is owned by Doe Run and located in Missouri. Cook asked Doe Run’s spokeswoman Tammy Stankey to clarify if lead ammunition will be affected by the closure of America’s last primary smelter.

Stankey told me:

“Primary lead is produced from ore. We have the largest mining district in the world here in Missouri. We extract the minerals to produce a pure lead concentrate, which goes to our smelter at the Herculaneum facility in Missouri.”

“That smelter produces the primary lead that battery manufacturers prefer. We also have a secondary smelter in Missouri. It recycles 13 million batteries a year used in automobiles all over the world.”

“The secondary smelter recovers lead by recycling it from batteries, spent lead ammunition and other lead materials. The predominant customers are battery companies. The battery companies send batteries in, and we recover the lead and send it back to them. These companies in America rely on us to provide them with secondary lead and primary lead.”

“We also sell lead to ammo manufacturers who are using primarily secondary lead.”

“Some of them may not be concerned; however, 130,000 tons of lead, which is primary lead, but still lead, will be removed from the North American market.”

“So we are in the supply-and-demand market, if you remove 130,000 tons of lead from the market, there will be greater competition for the remaining lead. So it’s really a matter of supply and demand.”

“There will be a smaller supply of lead in the U.S. market in the future.”

“Having said that, between 96% to 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled annually. So that tells you that on an annual basis, we are losing 2% to 4% of the lead. It’s not being returned in to the recycled lead production in the U.S. The primary lead historically helped to make up the gap.”

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So are the ammo manufacturers correct when they say they get their lead from secondary smelters, that’s an accurate statement.”

“Is it also accurate to say that we are looking at lead shortages all over? That is an accurate statement too, because 130,000 tons of lead will be removed from the U.S. market.”

“So the next question is where to get additional lead? The only primary smelters left in North America are two in Canada and one in Mexico. There are also some smelters in Asia.”

“China will likely ship us batteries but not the raw material the battery manufactures wants to use to make their own batteries. It’s simple economics. Would you rather sell corn or loaves of bread? There is a profit motivation for China to sell batteries, not the raw material of lead.”

“That’s the part that people who aren’t concerned are missing. We are taking 130,000 tons off the market. So the question is: where will that lead come from? What additional costs will come to supply the market with that demand? How much will shipping lead, which is a heavy material, cost? What about the political and environmental pressure to regulate lead smelters all over the world? How much competition will be there for lead imported to the U.S.?”

“The battery companies require the largest percent of lead, 80%. So if you are someone that is not a high-demand customer, you will have less leverage with the supplier for lead. The battery companies will have an easier time with suppliers, because suppliers do not want to jeopardize a large contract. Battery manufacturers own the lead. It’s not our lead. We simply provide a service to recover the lead and return it to the battery manufactures,” said Stankey.

If ammunition manufacturers are like battery manufactures, only with less leverage, then where will they get new lead supplies? It must be imported.

As stated in a previous article, U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan’s communications director told Cook, “We’re very concerned and extensively looking into the lead issue.”

The concern for gun owners is that if President Obama bans lead imports for gun manufacturers by executive order, he can limit ammo supply.

Cook asked Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, if he was concerned that Obama may ban lead imports for ammunition manufactures by executive order?

”That’s why we need to impeach him,” said Pratt. The sheriff of the county where that smelter is located should have already communicated with the chief attorney of the EPA and said, ‘Not in my county. If you come into my county, I am arresting you.’”

Cook asked Michele Hickford, communications director for Col. Allen West, about the recent criticisms regarding his article and the reality of the lead issue. “It’s fair to say the EPA is slowly tightening the noose on the lead industry in this country. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots and see where it’s headed. Any reduction in production, as you point out, is bound to impact supply at some point,” said Hickford.

“You know, last fall before the election, Col. West was vilified for questioning the sudden drop in unemployment figures. Turns out they were fake after all,” said Hickford.

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