Knife Rights was in Washington D.C. last week working on the Ivory Ban issue we first wrote about two weeks ago. We met with Members of Congress, including Rep. Matt Salmon, the only Congressman to question this Administration's Ivory Ban at the original sham hearing (Click for video which includes the less than fully straightforward response by Mr. Daniel Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).
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We also met with a number of organizations whose members will be adversely impacted by the ban, including Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association (Click for NRA's statement and call to action). As this administration sprints forward to implement their problematic and illegal ivory ban, regardless of how irrational and destructive it is, opposition is growing daily and starting to organize.
It is somewhat mind-boggling how many groups are impacted by this ban. Beyond knives, firearms and the like that immediately come to mind for most of our members, you have many types of musical instruments with ivory parts or ornamentation, way beyond just the obvious pianos, tableware, both serving pieces and utensils, including table cutlery, billiards balls and cues, as well as all manner of art, jewelry, and furniture, just to name a few. Moreover, while many of these are genuine antiques, many are more modern, but incorporate what was heretofore perfectly legal ivory brought in during the past 100 years. And, in any case, substantiating that the ivory is legal, antique or otherwise, is still virtually impossible due to the draconian requirements for proof and/or it being way beyond affordable for all but the most valuable items. And, then there's that unbelievable guilty-until-proved-innocent issue.
There are serious concerns being raised about enforcement by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents, from an agency that has a history of heavy-handed, abusive and politically motivated enforcement, who have no ability to differentiate between now-prohibited elephant ivory and other forms of still legal ivory. Many other types of ivory, both fossil and from other animals, and even flora, appear the same to the minimally trained eye, some are virtually impossible to differentiate without detailed analysis. Without need to prove guilt, they are free to take a "kill them all, let God sort it out" attitude toward enforcement-arrest anyone and seize anything that might possibly now be illegal and let the innocent victims deal with the terrifying and expensive legal assault by the government.
The onus under these new rules is not on them to prove it is illegal; the onus is on you to prove it is legal. So, the potential adverse impact on Americans is far wider than to just elephant ivory owners and sellers, it may well impact others who may be arrested without cause and little ability to establish innocence or to do so without extraordinary cost, simply because it looks like banned ivory to a government law enforcement agent.
Last week USFWS's Ashe issued a Director's Order which is the next step in actually implementing this aggressive Ivory Ban. USFWS also issued a Question and Answer document. As outlined in the Q&A, the requirements for proving acceptable provenance will give pause to any casual owner of ivory or even most collectors.
What USFWS has not, and cannot, explain is how the established facts, as noted in their September 2012 Fact Sheet, have changed such that there is a problem in the U.S. to begin with. That Fact Sheet noted that "we do not believe that there is a significant illegal ivory trade into this country." Clearly this ban is a hypocritical solution in search of a problem.
With regards to so-called "antique" ivory, by their definition more than 100 years old, proof must be provided by either "bonafide DNA analysis" a "qualified appraisal" or "other documentation," and they provide examples such as "family photos, ethnographic fieldwork or other information." As to any appraisal, they have very strict requirements as to who is allowed to offer an acceptable appraisal and how it must be conducted that will significantly increase the cost of such appraisals, putting them out of reach of most. And, there is that bizarre assumption of guilt, the government doesn't have to prove anything. You have to prove innocence to them, and do so by standards they dictate and which are virtually insurmountable for most. For those with ivory less than 100 years old, but which was until last month perfectly legal and which represents the majority of ivory in the U.S., it is virtually impossible to prove legality according to their rules.
The Q&A notes that while there are some current regulatory exceptions regarding interstate sales and export of African ivory under current regulations that might restrict what rules and enforcement they can implement immediately, it notes, "We are working on the regulatory action needed to change this regulation." The fact that existing exemptions work and protect the elephants and property rights of Americans is of no concern.
Penalties are exorbitant. The maximum penalty is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for an individual, $200,000 for an organization. Those accused may also face prosecution under the Lacey Act's anti-trafficking provisions with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and fines of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. Beyond that, even if not knowledgably submitted as such, any false record, account, label for, or false identification or making false statements and using false documents has a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and fines of $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for an organization. This is no slap on the wrist! Entirely appropriate for a criminal knowingly trafficking in poached black-market ivory, ludicrous for honest law-abiding Americans who are caught up by this unreasonable taking of their property and investments with the presumption of guilt, not innocence.
Ashe claims that agents are already enforcing the ban on imports, exports and interstate shipments. Our sources expect the final rules to be issued within the next six weeks, probably under an emergency order allowing only minimal time for comment, clearly indicative that this has all been coordinated and developed prior to the issuance of the Executive Order, because nothing in D.C. moves that quickly.
Mark D. Zalesky, Editor of Knife World, has put together an excellent article, "Ivory Ban Moves Forward," for the upcoming April issue, with more detail that we can include here. Because of the extraordinary nature of this threat, they have made the article available ahead of print publication at: http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/knifeworld/IvoryBanKnifeWorldApr2014.pdf
Help Stop the Ivory Ban and Prevent an Expansion of Poaching
Call or Write Today Now is the time to start making your views heard. Please email and call the White House at 1-202-456-1111 and email and call the Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-9453, to let them know you oppose this ban on sale and trade of legally owned ivory, and specifically, knives with ivory components.
Also, please call or email your Congressman at 1-202-224-3121 and ask them to oppose the Ivory Ban. Locate your Congressman at: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Also, the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, instigators of this outrageous ban, will be holding a meeting on March 20, 2014. Information on the meeting can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/1fgsZbN
Please submit a written letter NO LATER THAN March 17 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
. For those tempted to attend, please note that they allocate only 30 minutes to the "public," so the actual time to speak is often less than two minutes, according to those in the know.
When you write, PLEASE BE POLITE. The more personalized it is, the more impact it has. Just copying the points below is better than nothing, but it is far better to put it into your own words and emphasize your own situation, how it effects you, and your personal point of view.
The points to emphasize:
While you strongly support conservation efforts, this will likely result in an increase in elephant poaching, opposite what is intended. This will only lead to more slaughter of elephants!
"Takes" hundreds of millions of dollars of Americans' investments in ivory in violation of the 5th Amendment.
Presumes guilt, making all ivory owners criminals, no need for the government to factually establish illicit activity, which is both un-American and irrational.
No practical way for most Americans to establish their ivory is legal. Establishing exceptions based on evidence virtually nobody can provide is patently abusive.
The current system and rules have proven effective at restricting U.S. trade in illegal ivory, no need to fix what's not broken. The problem is not the U.S. and this outrageous ban in the U.S will not affect the huge market for illegal black market ivory in China and elsewhere. In its September 2012 Fact Sheet, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated, "we do not believe that there is a significant illegal ivory trade into this country," clear proof by the agency enforcing this ban that this is not a problem in the U.S.
Opposing this outrageous ivory ban is not going to be easy.
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Knife Rights is looking for volunteers for the NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.
1. We need a local from the Indy area who can accept delivery of our booth display and materials in the weeks leading up to the event, store them securely, deliver them to the Convention Center on the morning of Thursday, April 24, help with set-up, and then help with tear down and move out late in the afternoon on Sunday, April 27. Will require an SUV or pick-up for transport.
2. Booth Assistance Volunteers: Prior retail sales, show sales or NRA recruitment experience would be an advantage. Primary duty will be helping solicit donations from attendees. Must commit to at least a full day, multiple days preferred: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 25-27
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