FIREARMS DEBATE

Board May Reverse Ban on Buckshot

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors is expected to repeal today its week-old decision to ban buckshot in hunting and request more study of the issue after lobbying by the Fairfax-based National Rifle Association.

Some supervisors said yesterday that they might have acted too hastily when they voted 6 to 2 on April 18 to prohibit buckshot, a shotgun shell that holds about nine pellets.

Buckshot recently drew national attention when Vice President Cheney accidentally sprayed a Texas friend with the ammunition during a hunting trip.

The supervisors approved the ban and simultaneously lifted a prohibition on slugs after reviewing a staff report that said the single-bullet ammunition, which travels faster and requires more precise aim, is more humane when hunting animals, especially deer, because the animals suffer less.

The change was to go into effect this hunting season. Deer, quail and pheasant are popular game in the 348-square-mile county, especially in western Prince William and the Quantico area. Hunting is generally restricted in eastern Prince William, which is more densely populated.

The NRA objected to the board's action and alerted its members through the organization's Web site, listing the supervisors' e-mail addresses the day of the vote. Board members received e-mails that day and have continued to receive criticism since.

"We're opposed to any measure that limits options available to hunters," said Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman. "There is no proof that one item is better than the other or more safe than the other. . . . It is an individual preference."

Some hunters and firearms experts interviewed yesterday explained that using buckshot requires closer range but can cause an animal to suffer because of the spraying of the ammunition. Slugs, which can be shot from 150 yards, can make for a cleaner kill but can be dangerous because of their higher velocity and probability of kill, they said.

The choice of ammunition, a matter of longtime debate among hunters, is dictated by local laws, forcing hunters to change ammunition from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

"It's ongoing. It will never end," Jason Bourland, who works in sales at the Shooter's Paradise store in Woodbridge, said of the debate over ammunition.

Fairfax County allows only buckshot. Quantico Marine Base allows only slugs. Loudoun County permits both buckshot and slugs. And, before last Tuesday's vote, Prince William allowed only buckshot.

Bourland said some communities, such as Fairfax, have limited space and view buckshot, which doesn't travel as far, as safer to the general public. "The main reason I believe the suburban areas go with buckshot is there's less of a chance of it going past the target and causing damage, collateral damage," said Bourland, adding that he prefers slugs.


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