In 1989, international trade of ivory was outlawed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Until international trade was outlawed, billions of dollars in legally imported ivory would enter the country each year. Further restricting ivory trade within individual states will only serve to limit the ability of sportsmen and women to pass on cherished antique firearms and knives to future generations.
In 1989, international trade of ivory was outlawed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Until international trade was outlawed, billions of dollars in legally imported ivory would enter the country each year. In 2014, ivory trade was further restricted when President Obama entered an agreement between China and the United States to enact “nearly a complete ban on ivory import and export.” That same year, New Jersey and New York became the first states to enact statewide ivory trade, import, and export restrictions. Since then, approximately two dozen other states have pursued misguided, statewide ivory bans.
In addition to CITES, a number of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act, and the African Elephant Conservation Act, already enact extensive restrictions on the importation, possession, and trade of endangered and threatened species and their parts, including ivory. Existing state laws protect local wildlife and prohibit the possession of any animal product from another country where the wildlife is known to have been taken illegally.
The vast majority of individuals currently in possession of ivory products include antique enthusiasts, hunters, firearm collectors, and musicians that have acquired historically significant products over decades through the purchase, trade, or inheritance of these goods. Many of these items have been legally acquired in good faith or handed down to current owners through informal transactions with nothing resembling a paper trail to document a change of possession. State bans on the domestic trade of legally obtained ivory punish law-abiding citizens and do little to combat poaching and the trade of illegally acquired animal parts.
Points of Interest
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a statement in September 2012 regarding ivory trade, noting “. . . we do not believe that there is a significant trade of illegal ivory into this country.”
- President Obama issued an executive order on July 1, 2013 declaring a near-complete ban on international commercial trade in elephant ivory and in July 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s revisions to the Endangered Species Act went into effect, further restricting the international import and export of African elephant ivory.
- Six states have enacted laws that ban the trade of ivory, with Illinois most recently prohibiting the sale, purchase, barter, and possession with intent to sell of any ivory, ivory product, rhinoceros horn, or rhinoceros horn product in 2018, excluding antique firearms and musical instruments.
- Ivory bans affect millions of individuals and small businesses, including collectors of antiques, firearms, knives, and musical instruments.
- Several states have attempted to pass ivory bans that provide exemptions for antiques that are at least 100 years old. However, documentation of antique items is rarely available, and many antiques are restored or repaired with ivory that was legally obtained more recently.
It is important to recognize and support the role that hunters and anglers have historically taken to pass legislation that governs access to fish and wildlife, which largely eliminated commercial markets and traffic in harvested animal parts to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations. Ivory ban advocates claim that these bans will save elephants and decrease poaching; however, ivory is already a highly regulated product of import in the United States. Further restricting ivory trade within individual states will only serve to limit the ability of sportsmen and women to pass on cherished antique firearms and knives to future generations.
For more information regarding this issue, please contact Joe Mullin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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