Lead ammo ban in MN could double costs for clay target shooting teams

A hugely popular Minnesota high school sport could become much more expensive under a proposed law designed to protect children from lead.

Doctors are pretty unanimous on the science showing no amount of lead is safe for children. But it’s still in some ammunition and fishing tackle, although maybe not for long.

Clay target shooting is the fastest-growing high school sport in Minnesota, and 30 students participated in the inaugural 2008 season. Somewhere around 12,000 are signing up for 2024.

"It's bigger than both boys and girls high school hockey combined, so we're proud of it," said Jason Kelvie, state director for the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League.

Kelvie is also the clay target league coach for Lakeville South High School. He says the sport has blossomed partly because of Minnesota’s love for outdoor sports, but also its schedule flexibility and relative affordability.

"We try and keep costs as low as possible, knowing that families have so many kids and so many activities and so many sports and resources can only go so far," Kelvie said.

The average student-athlete fires almost 2000 shots a season. The cost depends on the metal used in the ammunition.

The cheapest uses lead in the shells and the primers. Most clay target athletes will spend $200 to $400 per season.

But the conservation-minded sportsmen’s group Izaak Walton League asked Minnesota legislators to get the lead out.

"I think there's also concern just about the effect that small amounts of lead cumulatively, over time, might have especially on young people and their developing brains and systems," said Sen. Jen McEwen (DFL-Duluth).

The USA Clay Target League says Sen. McEwen’s bill eliminating lead ammunition will at least double the cost of the sport, pricing out a lot of families.

McEwen says she sympathizes, but the health of kids is more important.

"It's not a tradeoff that we're willing to make," she said. "But I also don't think it's black and white in terms of the timing."

McEwen left a lot of dates blank in her bill, and her plan is to phase in the new rules over time. She thinks the industry will adjust, and steel or tungsten shot, or both, will get cheaper.