Both sides in the renewed debate over lead hunting ammunition seem to be suffering from hysteria.
It's too bad because there's plenty of room on the middle ground to reduce environmental risk from ammunition and to protect the shooting sports.
It's a cold heart that doesn't bleed a little when listening to Martha Jordan's story. The 62-year-old wildlife biologist from Everett has scooped up hundreds of sick or dead trumpeter and tundra swans from Judson Lake in Western Washington.
At least 2,700 of the swans have died or needed to be euthanized since 1999 after eating lead from ammunition left in the wild by hunters, Jordan told Rob Hotakainen, the Herald's Washington, D.C., reporter.
What's not clear is how long that lead has been in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991. In Canada, lead shot isn't legal for any uses.
There always will be some knucklehead hunters who refuse to follow the rules, but most of the lead that is poisoning swans was deposited in lakes and ponds before the ban.
Exaggerating environmental harm from the remaining allowable uses of lead shot -- primarily upland bird hunting and target shooting -- only adds to the hysteria.
But hunting advocates are at least as eager to engage in hyperbole when making their case.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings response to calls for broadening the ban are a good example.
"The ban on lead ammunition would not only increase costs for hunters, sport shooters and fishermen but would devastate the outdoor sportsmen and recreation industries that thrive in rural America," the Pasco Republican said in a written response to questions about the issue.
In the more than 20 years that the nationwide ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting has been in effect, that devastation never took hold. Millions of birds were spared lead poisoning as a result, however.
Downplaying the damage caused by lead shot, as some hunting groups have done, strains credibility.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's research into the effects of the 1991 ban showed a clear connection between bird deaths and the use of traditional ammunition.
The study concluded that the ban on lead shot in waterfowl hunting reduced lead poisoning deaths of mallards in the Mississippi Flyway by 64 percent in 1997. That added up to about 1.4 million ducks.
Complaints about the additional cost for nontoxic ammunition aren't particularly convincing either. The nominal additional expense the higher-cost ammo would add to a hunting trip seems trivial.
A hunter interested in saving money on meat ought to go to the supermarket. Anyone who has ever itemized the cost of a pheasant harvested from the wild would concur.
We're equally unimpressed with the argument that proponents of a ban on all lead ammunition have a hidden agenda to outlaw hunting.
Does the fact that many of the most vocal opponents of drunken driving also would like to ban alcohol altogether make DUI laws any less important?
Of course not.
Whether broadening the ban on lead ammunition is a good idea has nothing to do with any additional agenda that advocates might be pursuing.
The issue returned to the public eye earlier this month, when nearly 100 environmental groups in 35 states, led by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead from ammunition.
That seems like the wrong approach for a couple of reasons. The EPA has already ruled it doesn't have the authority to regulate hunting. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has demonstrated it's the logical choice.
A ban on all lead ammunition also seems like the wrong approach at this stage. Ban it's use from upland birds like quail and pheasant, then closely monitor the effect to see if it results in real benefits.
Don't automatically extend the ban to big game and target shooting.
Alternative ammunition for those activities pose some real problems. When you're firing off thousands of rounds a year on the practice range, even a small cost increase can add up.
And the environmental benefits of a ban aren't as clear. The lead slug that tears through a deer isn't going to get taken up into the food chain the same way as a pellet on the bottom of a pond.
Reducing the amount of lead left in the wild by hunters would benefit everyone. But the quickest route is through the sort of compromise that comes from rational discussion and not overblown rhetoric.