JROTC Shooting Programs are dangerous to the health and safety of American school children
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida practice in the school’s firing range.
This 25-page report documents the danger of lead contamination associated with the military’s JROTC marksmanship program in high schools across the country. The research examines the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) and its regulation and enforcement of lead safety standards.
1,871 high schools now have marksmanship programs affiliated with the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program and the congressionally-chartered Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP). Children are regularly taught to fire air rifles that are classified as lethal weapons.
The Daisy Avanti 887 CO2 air rifle is used by Army JROTC Marksmanship programs in high schools across the country. It shoots a lead .177 caliber flat-nose airgun pellet at speeds up to 600 feet per second. The pellet has a diameter of .177 inches, just like a .22 cal. bullet has a diameter of .22 inches. A .22 pistol, the kind that was used in the attempted assassination of President Reagan, fires at about 800 feet per second. They are both lethal weapons.
Non-powder guns, like the air guns used in JROTC programs, are not toys--they kill and injure thousands of people per year, including children and teenagers. But these tragedies are highly preventable through laws that treat non-powder guns like the potentially lethal weapons they are. http://smartgunlaws.org/non-powder-guns-policy-summary/
Twelve states, including Florida impose age restrictions on the possession, use, or transfer of air guns like the Daisy Avanti 887.
Most of these states and a few others specifically prohibit carrying air guns into schools. Incredibly, almost half of the states have no laws regulating air guns.
Many schools allow shooting to occur during school hours in classrooms, cafeterias, and gyms that are contaminated by lead fragments that become airborne and are deposited on the floor at the muzzle-end and at the target backstop. Loose enforcement of regulations creates a health hazard for students and custodial staff. Kids are walking through lead-contaminated areas and are routinely tracking poisonous lead particulates throughout their schools.
See this story from Fairfax County, VA: “Lead Contamination at Five County High
Many school officials say shooting air guns in classrooms is safe and point to the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s “Guide to Lead Management for Air Gun Shooting,” a publication that relies on outdated and faulty science. Others have banned the use of lead ammunition by children on school property. http://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/LeadMgtGuide.pdf?ver=-09122017
There are several studies linking airgun use to airborne lead particulate matter, while the Civilian Marksmanship Program relies on the work of a discredited Colorado firm to maintain that firing airguns does not contribute to airborne lead. This is important because high school cafeterias and gyms do not have appropriate ventilation systems to handle minute lead particulates.
To provide a sense of the research: Studies of shooters who only fired airguns report blood lead levels of 1.8 - 12.7 ug/dl. (Demmeler, Matthias; Nowak, Dennis; Schierl, Rudolf. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health; Heidelberg Vol. 82, Iss. 4, (Mar 2009): 539-42.)
According to research on the health effects of blood lead levels on pregnancy and fetus in utero, (Journal of Gynecology and Women’s Health Volume 5 Issue 5 June, 2017), Blood lead levels of 2.0 - 10.0 μg/dl (2-10 micrograms per deciliter) cause gestational hypertension and reduced fetal growth and low birthrate. There is limited evidence that this degree of lead poisoning causes pre-term birth, decreased post-natal growth, reduced cognitive function in prenatally exposed infants, ADHD & behavioral problems, and decreased auditory function. Larger amounts of lead have been linked to all of these horrible things. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/ACCLPP/blood_lead_levels.htm
A Swedish study in 1992 analyzed the air in an indoor firing range that was used exclusively for air guns and found the air had lead levels an average of 4.6 μg/m3 (range 1.8 - 7.2 μg/m3). The study documents the presence of airborne lead as a result of air rifle shooting and calls for special ventilation systems.
In 2013, the California Department of Public Health recommended hat the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health lower the permissible exposure limit for lead in air to 0.5 - 2.1 μg/m3 to keep BLLs below the range of 5–10 μg/dL
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe blood lead level in children. Protecting children from exposure to lead is necessary to insure lifelong good health. Even minute levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.
When children as young as 13 are brought to filthy and largely unregulated commercial firing ranges through their participation in JROTC marksmanship programs, they come into contact with much higher levels of lead contamination on surfaces and in the air, compared to what they might encounter in their contaminated cafeterias and gyms.
There are still many high school shooting programs affiliated with the CMP that continue to use small-bore .22 caliber rifles and continue to hold practice indoors. The .22 small bore rifles fire standard bullets and deposit substantially more lead into the air and on the floor than the lead pellets fired from air guns. Youth groups affiliated with high school JROTC programs are often forced to use commercial firing ranges where .22 caliber rifles and enormous lead-spewing guns are regularly fired.
The U.S. has an estimated 6,000 commercial indoor and outdoor gun ranges, but only 201 have been inspected in the past decade. Of those inspected, 86% violated at least one lead-related standard. In 14 states, federal and state agencies did not inspect a single commercial gun range from 2004 to 2013. http://projects.seattletimes.com/2014/loaded-with-lead/3/
The CMP’s guide to lead management asserts, "Target shooting with air riﬂes and small bore (rim fire) riﬂes does not create real health risks for shooting sports participants." There is substantial scientific evidence to refute the CMP’s stance. The CMP firmly opposes using non-lead pellets stating they have not "proven capable of producing ten-ring accuracy on air rifle targets."
It is tough dislodging cavalier attitudes held by the military, school officials, and the CMP regarding the safety of lead ammunition in use in the nation's high schools. As one high school coach in rural Pennsylvania stated, "High blood lead levels are going to exist."