The Very Real Dangers of Lead Poisoning Involving Guns

Lead is a toxin and dangerous to humans.  It’s one of the reasons we don’t have lead paint anymore.

But unlike the liberal gun grabbers who use the notion of lead poisoning to hijack the legislative process in order to require “environmental studies” that force pro-gun bills to mire in bureaucratic BS, I’m talking about something real and of real impact.  Tragically, the danger springs from amongst our own and threatens the health of shooters.

Shooting ranges are dangerous places if one is not careful.  Yet beyond the danger of a negligent discharge getting someone shot, cases are springing up around the country of shady business owners who are not taking the proper steps to ensure that the lead vapor and dust produced in their ranges is properly contained and eliminated.

There are over 6000 shooting ranges in America yet the vast majority have never been inspected.  I’m not condoning government involvement but of the 201 that have been inspected, 86% of them have failed at least one lead related standard.  And it’s not like these were all in one area of the country, the most serious violations came from a myriad of regions in the US.  Places like Manchester Firing Line Range in New Hampshire, Target World in Ohio, Top Brass Sports in Tennessee and the Sharp Shooter in Texas each had more than 20 lead-related violations.

How do people get lead poisoning?

Every time someone pulls the trigger a chemical and physical reaction occurs within the chamber of the gun.  The amount of energy and heat release forces the chemicals that make up the power and that of the bullet to react and expel lead vapor as well as subsequent dust particles laden with lead.

On an outdoor range , nature minimizes the risk by carrying away and scattering the lead particles.  Despite what gun grabbing zealots like to have people believe, lead is a natural element in nature and so long as the concentration of lead bullets aren’t collected and dumped directly into the drinking water or slathered in honey to entice animals to eat it, the risk to nature is non-existent.

In an INDOOR range though, especially one run poorly, the danger is multiplied greatly.  If surfaces aren’t cleaned regularly, if ventilation isn’t properly working in order to remove lead particles from the air, the chance of lead poisoning is exponentially greater.

What does lead poisoning do to a person?

Lead poisoning effects every aspect of the human body.  Both soft tissue and bone can be compromised.  Organs fail, brain function decreases, muscles weaken, immune system is compromised, hearing loss, tooth decay, learning deficiancies, sterilization etc.

Suffice it to say that lead poisoning is bad.  And outside of work in a lead based setting, shooting ranges are the most likely place for the public to acquire lead poisoning, according to national statistics.

Those most at risk are range workers who inhale airborne lead as they instruct customers and clean up spent ammunition. They also then bring home the accumlated lead particles on their clothing and body and therefore pose a risk of contaminating their family as well.  With children being more susceptible to damage from less lead this is an especially important danger.

Here’s one story of a gun range manager (from whose life was dramatically changed because of a reckless owner who didn’t do what was right, either from greed or sloth:

For about a year starting in 2006, Maddox and his wife worked at Bluegrass Indoor Range in Louisville. Like many shooting-range workers, Maddox knew little about lead and its damaging capabilities. Daily, he inhaled airborne lead while managing the range and gun shop, earning $9 an hour. Nightly, he swept up casings from spent ammunition in the 12 firing lanes, pushing a broom and kicking up more lead dust.

He complained to owner Winfield Underwood that catch bins at the end of shooting lanes were overflowing with spent lead bullets, the ventilation system didn’t work and workers needed protective gear. Inspectors later discovered the air vents didn’t even have filters.

After working at the Louisville range about six months, Maddox, a hefty 38-year-old man, dropped 180 pounds. He also lost sensation in his fingers and toes, his thinking slowed, and he couldn’t remember birthdays. He had no sex drive.

“It just feels like someone unplugged me from the wall and I just lost all my power,” he said.

His doctor’s diagnosis: lead poisoning from the gun range. A February 2007 blood test showed he had a dangerous level of lead with 68 micrograms per deciliter — more than 56 times the average adult level.

Even after the Maddox’s diagnosis (and his wife also getting sick) the range’s owner, Winfield Underwood, did NOTHING to improve the safety conditions within his range.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet, the state’s workplace-safety agency, inspected Underwood’s range several times and determined he had overexposed his employees to lead. The agency cited the range with dozens of violations and fined it $461,400.  Yet in a Kentucky two step, the amount was later settled down to a paltry $7200 because of “financial difficulty.”

Financial difficulty?!?!?

Underwood was basically running an execution gas chamber that put not only his employees but every customer who walked in at risk.  And it was not out of ignorance, for a pair of his employees fell sick to lead poisoning, but out of greed.  Financial difficulty?  I would hope so.  I would hope it was so difficult that he would be driven out of business so that people aren’t enticed to enter his lair of lead poison.

Speaking of Gas Chambers:

From the moment the doors opened in October 2005 at the new Champion Arms indoor shooting range in suburban Seattle, co-owner Steve Wangsness knew airborne lead was going to be a problem, Washington state records show.

The ventilation system specifically designed for the custom-built, 10-lane range was supposed to push air containing lead dust and bullet fragments away from shooters as they fired at targets.

But the exhaust system instead blew toxic dust clouds back on unwitting shooters as well as into retail areas of the business, where workers spent most of their day.

Wangsness and co-owner Maria Geiss sparred with the building’s landlord over the faulty system, eventually filing a lawsuit. Still, they kept Champion Arms open for business, exposing their employees, customers and an on-site resident to the dirty gun range.

We, as gun owners, need to be better than this.  We need to hold gun ranges to hire standards.  Gun range owners need to hold themselves to higher standards.

We need to look out for each other because if we don’t, then the government is going to come goosestepping in and “look out for us” by closing down all the gun ranges…you know…for the children.

Let’s make sure that the only lead poisoning going on is when bad guys pop up and we put them down.


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