The California Legislature passed a phased lead ammunition ban signed into law by Governor Jerry in 2013. The ban was adopted following the adverse effect of lead ammunition on the endangered California Condor and other birds who sometimes feed on the entrails of animals shot by hunters.


            The 2013 law is implemented in three stages. The first phase banned lead in California’s state-run wildlife areas and Ecological Reserves; the second phase, effective July 1, 2016, banned lead for shooting upland game birds and small game mammals with a shotgun. Phase 3, effective July 1, 2019, is a total ban as described below.


            Beginning July 1, 2019, non-lead ammunition is required when taking any wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California. That is a tsunami change for California hunters, which has not been well received by the National Rifle Association and some hunting groups.

            The no-lead ammo restriction includes hunting on public land, private land and even licensed game bird clubs. The new law applies to rifles, shotguns, pistols and muzzle loaders in any gauge or caliber. It applies for the take of any legal game species and non-game birds and mammals, and includes firearms used for depredation to take species causing property damage. Lead ammunition for duck and goose hunting has been banned nationwide since 1991.

            Lead ammunition is allowed for target shooting. The no-lead ban does not apply to hunting with pellet guns which are not classified as firearms, although pellet guns if mishandled can be as dangerous as firearms. Law enforcement and other government officials are exempt from the prohibition of lead ammunition when “carrying out a statutory duty required by law.”

            It has been suggested that hunters carry their non-toxic ammunition boxes when hunting to make it easy to verify they are using brass or copper (non-lead) ammunition. Violation of the law is an infraction punishable by a fine of $500, $1,000 – $5,000 for a subsequent offense.


            There are options for disposing of your unused lead ammo, (1) call to see if your local police station will take the ammunition (the Truckee Police Department will take small amounts); (2) local gun ranges may take your ammo as lead bullets are legal for target practice; and (3) contact your local dump/hazardous waste facility to see if they will accept lead ammunition (Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal will not). Do not throw your ammo in the trash, bury it in the ground or soak it in water or oil and then throw it out.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada.  Jim’s practice areas include:  real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters.  He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or www.portersimon.com.  

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The content contained and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author. This blog contains content and opinions concerning the law generally, and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create any attorney‑client relationship with the reader. The reader should consult with an attorney about any specific legal issues prior to embarking on any course of action or inaction involving legal matters. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of this blog and expressly disclaims liability for any errors and omissions.