In a move to protect both antique guns and musical instruments, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is fighting an federal ban on ivory backed by the White House.
Alexander has introduced legislation that would allow an exemption to the transport of legacy items containing ivory across state lines and through international ports of entry.
While ivory imports have largely been banned since 1990, the controversial precious material could still be commercially traded inside the country. However, under Executive Orders from the White House, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has since February 2014 made moves to implement a nearly complete ban on the commercial ivory trade.
“For those of us who are concerned that this administration is trying to take away our guns, this regulation could actually do that,” Alexander said on the Senate floor Thursday. “If this regulation is approved, when you decide to sell a gun, a guitar or anything else across state lines that contains [legal] African elephant ivory, the government would actually take them away – even if you inherited them or bought them at a time when the sale of ivory was not illegal.”
The measure, S. 2587, the Lawful Ivory Protection Act, would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to allow for some exemptions on the possession of ivory. It would not allow the production of new goods, but would allow those made before Feb. 25, 2014, often historically significant antiques, to be grandfathered. Currently a gun owner who traveled abroad with a firearm that contains ivory would not be allowed to bring it back into the country. Under the language of Alexander’s bill, they would.
Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) has introduced a companion bill, H.R. 5052 in the U.S. House.
It is unclear what effect these bills, should they become the law of the land, would affect the growing number of strict state bans on elephant ivory such as the one passed by the New York legislature last month. Anti-hunting groups including the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Humane Society of the U.S. have backed these prohibition measures.
Gun rights groups on the other hand have weighed in on the subtle pitfalls of ivory ban legislation.
“While the goal of restricting illegal commerce in endangered species is laudable, the effects of the ivory ban would be disastrous for American firearms owners and sportsmen, as well as anyone else who currently owns ivory,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action in a release earlier this month.
Citing a New York Times article, Cox said, “This means that shotguns that have an ivory bead or inlay, handguns with ivory grips, or even cleaning tools containing ivory, would be illegal to sell. The irony is that this proposed ban would do virtually nothing to protect elephants, but could instead make law-abiding Americans potential criminals overnight.”
Senate Bill 2587 is currently in the Committee on Environment and Public Works.