My New Rifle

For 2019, California has outlawed the use of lead ammunition for all hunting. Apparently, the deer hunters in the mountains of Northern California were spraying so much lead around the hillsides that it was poisoning the condors in Santa Cruz.

Well, hell, I realized that I had better break down and buy some of the new, hyper-expensive non-lead ammo, if I was going to hunt this year, so I went into Sportsman’s Warehouse to buy some. Before they could sell me any, they had to do a background check. Should be no problem; I have been hunting in California for over 50 years, have valid ID and no criminal history. Hah! I did not pass the background check! Apparently, I was not in this particular system.

Time to do a little research. It turns out there is an administrative procedure to get into the system, but most sources say it doesn’t work. Confusing, time-consuming and unreliable. The only practical way to get into the system is to buy a gun!

After thinking this over for awhile, I realized this was OK with me. The deer rifle I have been using weighs almost 11 pounds, and wears me out just lugging it around. So I went into Olde West and found a nice light Ruger American in 30.06. I think I will enjoy hunting with it.

I am one of the lucky ones, with enough computer savvy to do the research, and enough money to buy a new gun and the ridiculously expensive ammunition now required. Too bad for the poor country folk who just want to go hunting! California is making it harder and harder for us, every year. We are not criminals, but we are being punished by an increasingly complex and confusing legal system. You almost have to have a law degree to go hunting, these days.
So, please do not tell me these laws are not aimed at the honest gun owners. And don’t try to convince me, or any other California hunter, that what we need is more gun laws!

I wrote the above as a Facebook blurb, in consternation over the ridiculous state of affairs in California, but I did not expect the massive response from other gun owners, nor the numbers of “Shares” it engendered. It seems that I am not alone in my anger over this.

The thing that struck me hardest, is the great number of truly upstanding citizens, mostly rural, who have failed the background check. These people include mill workers, loggers, teachers, CalTrans workers, housewives, and retired military personnel. Many of them I know personally, and I personally guarantee that they are not criminals, nor mentally unstable.

Perhaps just as odious is the fact that rural stores are being run out of the ammunition business by the Byzantine complexity of the laws. Ernie’s Dept. Store in Hayfork is one example. For many years they supplied local hunters and target-shooters with ammunition, but they have given up on it because of the administrative headaches involved. Hayforkers now have to go into Redding, only to find out that they do not pass the background check.

In large part, this is an urban-versus-rural issue. The fact is that rural people are virtually disenfranchised in this state. The Supreme Court, under Earl Warren, made sure of that in 1969, by eliminating area representation in state legislatures. We are now reaping the results of that decision; tyranny of the majority is now the status quo.

The urban liberals who control California politics are fond of saying that these gun laws are not intended to harass hunters, nor to deny the right to keep and bear arms to honest citizens. They should stop saying this. It is now plain that this is, indeed, the result of the gun law mess they have created, whether intended or not.

The NRA has been telling us for years that this is the left-wing plan to disarm the nation, and do away with the Second Amendment, a little at a time. I left the NRA awhile ago, because of their increasingly strident right-wing ravings, but it appears that they have been right about this all along. I may have to re-join. I really hate to do this, as I am a fairly liberal person on many issues, including health care and civil rights, but I am a country boy, and this hits me personally. I am throwing in my lot with the right wing, even though I hate a lot of their rhetoric and policies. I wonder whether the Democratic party may not be shooting itself in the foot, so to speak, by alienating the gun owners and rural people across the nation.

The cause célèbre in the media is “assault rifles.” The last media blitz was for background check laws. We can see how that is working out.

So here’s the deal;

Give us hunters back our lead bullets. They are more accurate and more effective on game, besides being less expensive. The lead ammo ban is based on fraudulent science, plain and simple. No one who drives a car can claim that a few rifle bullets in the mountains are a significant source of pollution.

Then fix the background-check mess. Honest citizens should not have to jump through hoops to buy ammunition for our guns. This is just wrong.

Do this, and then we can talk about how many bullets a clip should hold, and what an assault weapon really is. Until then, do not be surprised at the bitter resistance you get from honest gun owners.

James Montgomery
James Montgomery calls himself a broken-down logger/garbageman who went back to school, got a law degree, and worked as a nonprofit administrator, before retiring. His interests include hiking, fishing, computers, kayaking, hunting and writing. He is now serving as president of the board of directors of Empire Recovery Center.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

42 Responses

  1. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    When I worked at SUHSD we had many, actually most, employees who were hunters, they also were union employees which made them listen to Democratic candidates to replace Herger. One friend who went to one of the endless Democrat town halls in Chico said how he asked the candidate about gun laws. The candidate responded that they believed in responsible gun laws, When asked what that meant the candidate said, move on to next question. This is why there are “responsible gun laws” and one of the reasons Democrats can’t win in north state elections.
    As a side note, my wife’s brother married Ernie’s daughter and actually ran the store for a few years after he left the Navy.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Saw this bumper sticker yesterday:
    “It takes a special kind of stupid to believe criminals will obey gun laws.”

  3. Avatar Tony Ten Broeck says:

    The TYRANNY of the MINORITY has caused this nation far more damage than could be inflicted by a majority. Sadly, the minority focuses on a small picture.

    Lead is a dangerous material. It should be banned. Melting it without proper safeguarding is fool hardy at best. Maybe the expense of the ammo is another example a company charging far more than the value just for profit. Has the minority checked why this is allowed?

    The disfunctional background check system is a disgrace to the state. Certainly the majority will see this. It can be fixed cooperatively.

  4. Avatar Dan Greaney says:

    James, maybe Senator Dahle will help untangle the ammo-buying process? –I’m a bird watcher, and face a similar tangle with what should be the simple process of buying a pass to a State Wildlife Area. I don’t mind supporting the things, but the process is a nuisance. I guess I need to contact the senator, too…

  5. Avatar Tim says:

    Amen James!

    I have an older version license that does *not* say “federal limits apply.” Newsom promised us this law would not require the REAL ID, yet some retailers (like Walmart) will not accept anything else. It did not matter to them that I had a passport card and CCW – they do not want their clerks to have to take the time to manually type my name & address into the background check system. Real IDs can be swiped to automatically populate those fields, older licenses apparently cannot.

    Of course, the way around this and many other dumb California laws is to get a “Curio and Relic” Federal Firearm License along with a certificate of eligibility. It just taxes lawful gun owners even more: $30 for the 03ffl + $71 for the COE + ~$60 for a livescan for the privilege of ordering $30 of ammo online. But hey, once done you can also order a M1 Garand – the original assault rifle – shipped straight to your door from the US Government’s Civilian Marksmanship Program ( ). Take that Newsom!!!

    And you’re absolutely right about the new lead-free ammo not being as accurate. Your traditional hunting rifle was made to shoot a certain mass/weight of bullet — it has X many twists of rifling to stabilize the bullet in flight like a spinning football. Non-lead bullets tend to be lighter (e.g. 150 grains of copper instead of 175 grains of copper jacketed lead) which means they need more twists to stabilize. So now a CA hunter needs to accept reduced accuracy, buy a new rifle meant for non lead ammo, or they need to buy the extra expensive non-lead ammo that is made with the sorts of heavy metals that may be every bit as toxic as lead but just haven’t been as well studied (Bismuth, Tungsten, etc).

    As for the NRA, it is a shame that they can’t get it together. They still claim to be non partisan, yet they went after pro-gun North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp because she opposed Kavanaugh. So I prefer the 2nd Amendment Foundation, but the NRA’s California affiliate – CRPA – probably still does the most to fight CA infringements.

  6. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Gun owners, here’s a question….Please tell me how many of your friends, in California, have had their hunting or sport weapons taken away ? Just want one name, or even the city/town this happened in. Please use your common sense and know this is not happening and their are no laws in the legislative pipeline to this effect. Lead bullets: yes they do leave poisonous elements in the carcasses of animals; even your deer/elk meat will be contaminated with lead bullets should you not get all of the lead bullets out of your meat. Not only Condors feed on carcasses with lead bullets, but other of our endangered wildlife as well: cougars, coyotes, wolves and other forest birds and animals. As well, I hope you’re not talking about your right to bear arms, even if that includes fully automatic weaponry, because I don’t think that was part of what the 2nd Amendment was intended for. Automatic weapons are what the military and our community protectors are trained to use, not the average citizen.

    • Avatar James Montgomery says:

      If you are worrying about lead bullets in the environment, but drive an automobile, you are swallowing a camel but straining at a gnat.
      Automatic weapons are already illegal, btw.

      • Avatar Dave Rose says:

        Automatic weapons are LEGAL James, depending on the state and provided you obtain the required permits.

  7. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Lead bullets pose a danger not only to a wide range of wildlife species, but to humans as well.

    There is something I’ve been wondering about: James may be an exception, but I’d wager that most of the hunters who are generally against any restrictions on the “right” to own and use weapons are also in favor of retricting the rights of other citizens to things like abortion access, basic rights for the gay community, etc., and many in conservative-leaning rural areas work actively against those rights. How does someone reconcile those two positions?

  8. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    James, fully atuomatic weapons can be purchased online, or in the underground economy, then what are you supposed to do with them, use them for target practice ? Does that lead to using them on your neigbhor in a fit of anger ? Best kept with military & law enforcement. Unless you like shredding deer during hunting season. Haven’t seen many condors or other wildlife dying from auto emissions.

  9. Avatar Boojum14 says:

    Jim, re: your claim that the “lead ammo ban is based on fraudulent science, plain and simple” – if you’re going to trash a bunch of scientific studies as fraud, it would be good to provide at least some support for your argument.

    Here is a link discussing some of the unintended impacts of lead bullets and shot on wildlife: And if you’re interested in more detailed information, at the bottom right (see “Lead Studies” section) there is a link to that leads to the pdf versions of over two dozen studies related to lead and wildlife.

    • Avatar Boojum14 says:

      Edit: I meant James, sorry!

      • Avatar James Montgomery says:

        Jim is fine. I’ve been called worse. See Tim below for answer to your comment.
        Actually, there are some heavily-shot over bird hunting spots that should probably ban lead. But the lead ban has little to do with actual environmental concerns. Only urban liberals believe they do. There are many, many more far worse sources of pollution, but they cannot be used by the anti-gun propaganda machine for their purposes.

  10. Avatar Tim says:

    Lead contamination was a legitimate issue with shotgun ammunition. But virtually all rifle ammo is copper jacketed, which aside from keeping the bore clean longer also does a fantastic job preventing lead exposure. If the environment was their sole concern, legislators could have mandated that all lead hunting ammo be jacketed.

    But the environment wasn’t their sole concern, Democrats have been making a concerted effort to de-normalize firearm ownership & use. Making hunting & sport shooting more expensive and more of a hassle is just part or their long term plan. Eric Holder once even suggested “brainwashing” people with negative ads – something we are starting to see today with these new PSAs that ostensibly are about keeping guns locked up away from children but really make fun of gun owners for being irrationally scared of boogeymen.

    PS: The 2nd amendment has zilch to do with hunting. And it is still legal to own automatic weapons, it is just very very costly in California and usually requires some political clout (application for California machine gun permit here: ). It is much easier (but still costly) in Nevada and other free states.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:


      Where in the 2nd Amendment does it give private citizens the right to own an arsenal of military-grade assault weapons? (or even one).

      • Avatar Josh says:

        “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:


          I still don’t see the part where it says that private citizens individually have the “right” to own military-grade automatic weapons whose only purpose is to slaughter large numbers of human beings in seconds, even from a distance. And isn’t our “militia” (police forces, the military, etc.) already armed?

        • Avatar Tim says:

          It says the right of the “people” not the “state” or “army” or “militia.” And if you read the federalist papers it becomes very clear the founders intended for individual, private ownership.

          PS: The 2nd amendment, as written by Jefferson, says:

          “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

          This was also what the Pennsylvania Gazette published while the debate was going on (when the 2nd amendment was originally going to be the 4th) and it is the text Jefferson officially imprinted as Secretary of State once the bill of rights were ratified.

          There were 14 hand-written copies that had a variety of punctuations (zero, one, two, and three commas) and words that were capitalized (Militia, State, Arms). One of those copies made it to the national archive and it has the excess capitalizations and 3 commas.

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            It seems to me that the U.S. already has a “well regulated militia” in the form of the military and local police departments.

            And of course all you gun rights people are being disingenuous. The Founders couldn’t possibly have foreseen the slaughter and maiming of hundreds of thousands of citizens (many of them children), using weapons they would never have imagined could ever exist.

            However, they did allow for Amendments (there are now dozens of them). I’d say it’s time for one more.

            Also, I wonder if you right-wing gun defenders give as much credence to the things Thomas Jefferson said on the subject of the separation of church and state.

  11. Avatar Anita Brady says:

    Tots and pears.

  12. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    All this complaining about buying a gun, and yet you were still able to do it. I’m glad it was difficult and complicated and I wish it was even harder. People who complain the regulations hinders law abiding citizens should also complain about speed limits and rules about the safe handling of food and laws against cheating on your taxes.

    I’ve had so many gun owners flip their wigs over my anti-gun position, seriously unhinged rage, and I don’t understand what they’re so afraid of since they’re the ones armed to the teeth and all I’ve got is a smart mouth and a computer. Of course, if there’s a zombie apocalypse I’ll sure look foolish.

  13. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    James, it seems your real beef is with the background check for purchasing ammunition, and it appears you have a legitimate complaint. According to this story written roughly one month after the law went into effect, 57,000 customers attempted to purchase ammo, but only 47,000 sales were made. It appears most of the 10,000 sales that were denied were to customers not already in the background check system. 100 customers were actually felons prohibited from gun ownership, so the new law did prevent some criminals from getting ammo. Sounds like they need to streamline that background check system.

  14. Avatar Candace says:

    Cars are still how most rural folks get around and are therefore still a necessity for many. One can care about the environment, support laws that move us towards electric vehicles, drive less, etc. while at the same time not wanting lead bullets in the environment. The car/bullet analogy is akin to saying if you use electricity you have no business criticizing forest management. I was raised with guns all around me as my step-father was/is a collector. I grew up going to gun shows, flea markets, Olde West, Jones Fort, etc. on a regular basis. That said, I’m not and never have been interested in or comfortable around guns and Patrecia is correct as far as most of the gun owners I grew up around sharing a very, very right leaning worldview. I have family members that I love who are hunters and responsible gun owners. If I’m being honest I think bias against the typical gun owner who hunts ( excluding elite big game hunters) is classist and I’m probably guilty of it too. I hope not, but as they say, “ If you spot it, you got it”. Still, while some of these new laws are a royal pain in the ass to hunters there’s no getting around the fact that we have a huge gun violence problem in America. I don’t know what the answer is but I believe we need to work together to solve it; gun enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. Maybe pain in the ass gun laws aren’t ideal or the answer but perhaps they’re stepping stones to reasonable gun laws that we can all agree on that go towards saving lives. I don’t believe the NRA is one of those stepping stones.

  15. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    When I was single growing up in Salt Lake City the best two times to meet loose women on the prowl was during opening weekend for deer hunting and during Mormon Conference. Thought I would bring some levity to this gun anti everything else conversation.

  16. Avatar Dan McNabb says:

    Absolutely spot on article James. I have also used the a analogy for the Democrats “shooting themselves in the foot “. I live in North Carolina and often have no problem telling canvassers going through my neighborhood at Election time that’s exactly what they are doing with the Party wide assault on the Second Amendment. This whole Bizarro scenario almost seems to be contrived to keep the Electorate divided. Jus sayin

  17. Avatar Dan McNabb says:

    I also support with a Patriotic support of the US Constitution and 2nd Amendment ,,reasonable Social reforms regarding healthcare , and sustainable living wages for all Americans . The GOP sure got saddled with a “Doozie” this on this goaround!

  18. Avatar Kyler Burke says:

    James, thanks for the article, a voice of reason amidst the hum of craziness in my home state. For what it’s worth, I think it’s completely natural, sane and healthy to have stances that straddle the boundaries the political parties and the media seem to want to corral us into. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your fellow man to be able to afford insulin, to want to conserve natural resources and meanwhile want to protect the constitutional right to bear arms. I solute your candor!

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      I’ve long felt that a meme that floated around a few years ago encapsulated my views: “I support the right of a gay married couple to protect their marijuana garden with firearms.” It’s about liberty, and too many folks on the left and right are willing to stomp on those liberties they deem only dear to “them.”

  19. Avatar Randy says:

    As hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in our region is ‘sterilized’ with toxic herbicides, ground into fuel and replaced with corporate owned tree farms maybe banning lead and making ammo more expensive will give the wildlife a much needed break from the ‘sports’ crowd. As for lead, some decades back I purchased a metal detector quip with a ‘descriminator’ function that can identify non ferrous metals and felt certain I would soon be loading my backpack with gold nuggets the miners had missed. After walking miles and miles of the most rugged ground in our gold region I had collected about 20# of lead bullets and no gold. Is lead worth anything?

  20. Avatar Stan Williamson says:

    I have carried the same 300 Savage rifle since age 12 and am now 62. No company can make a profit by making non lead ammo for my 300 so in CALIFORNIA I cannot hunt with my rifle and really don’t want to hike if I can’t!

  21. When the Constitution was written there were weapons available that were capable of firing multiple rounds automatically. Automatic weapons are not new!

  22. Avatar Tommie Turner says:

    I feel so bad for the folks that live in rural California. No representation from Sacramento.

  23. Avatar Peggy Elwood says:

    I would not want the death of a California Condor on my conscience because I was too tight to spend a few extra pennies on bullets.