Welcome to the intersection of American’s gun fetish and her propensity to treat workers as less than humans. The Seattle Times reports that workers, shooters, and their families have been contaminated at indoor gun ranges due to poor ventilation. Contaminated with what, you ask?
About 40 million Americans a year engage in recreation shooting; recreational shooting with lead-based ammunition. When they shoot with this ammunition, they spread vapors and toxins that make thousands of people ill. What’s more, Federal and state regulators are doing scarce little to make sure the ranges are clean — after all, we don’t need no big gummint trying to take away our lead bullets.
According to the Seattle Times, the most at-risk are, of course, the employees who work around the firearms. While working around the firearms, they unknowingly inhale “dust and fumes as they instruct customers to clean shooting ranges of spent ammunition.” The Times reports that even people who’ve never set foot in a gun range can become sick as a result of the lead: “Employees have carried lead residue into their homes on their skin, clothes, shoes and work gear, inadvertently contaminating family members, including children, who are the most vulnerable to lead’s debilitating health effects.”
What’s more, some of these firing ranges “cater to children,” where the kids have “birthday parties and special events,” according to Elana Page, a medical officer for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
Laws require gun range owners be responsible for protecting their employees from lead-polluted workplaces. There are regulations on air quality, surface contamination, and safety gear, as well as other standards, after all. But an analysis of the records of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveals that only 201 of the nation’s 6,000 some commercial gun ranges have been inspected — during the last 10 years. And among those inspected?
86% had violated at least one lead-related safety standard.
Way to go free market! Woo-hoo!
So what’s the NRA say?
C’mon, what do you think the NRA is going to say? Do you honestly think they’ll admit there’s a problem?
Publicly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) dismisses contentions by health officials that lead is a widespread health and safety problem at shooting ranges. “The issue of lead problems for indoor ranges is extremely rare,” said Susan Recce, an NRA official. To their members, the lobbying group encourages owners to clean up their ranges to avoid inviting government scrutiny.
But the problem of lead exposure need not be part of the debate raging over gun rights in America, said Kentucky firearms instructor Colleene Barnett, who suffered from lead poisoning.
“We need people to educate folks,” she said. “The last thing you need is to stop shooting — and for people to hold lead against shooting as a sport.”
Lead causes a raft of health disorders ranging from mental impairment to neurological damage. More worrisome, there’s been a correlation between lead exposure and violence — a study correlated leaded/unleaded gasoline usage with violent crime in the United States, suggesting that the use of leaded gasoline caused a spike in violence.
While total conjecture on my part, I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t have something to do with violent nature of the political right. After all, while I’m sure conservatives aren’t the only ones using shooting galleries, I would be surprised if they weren’t a majority of users, however slim.