Fear not, US tells guitarists worried by illegal wood
Thursday 22 September 2011
Globe-trotting guitarists need not fear prosecution if they are stopped at the US border with instruments made of illegally traded wood, two US government departments say.
In a letter to a US congresswoman, the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior sought to allay fears stirred when famous guitar maker Gibson was raided on suspicion of breaking a US law on trade in endangered species.
"People who unknowingly possess a musical instrument or other object containing wood that was illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of law and who, in the exercise of due care, would not have known that it was illegal, do not have criminal exposure," the letter said.
"The federal government focuses its enforcement efforts on those who are removing protected species from the wild and making a profit by trafficking in them," it added.
The letter, sent to Marsha Blackburn, vice chair of the House of Representatives subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade, was seen Wednesday on her website (blackburn.house.gov).
Blackburn is a Republican from Tennessee, where Gibson is headquartered.
Gibson - makers of Les Paul guitars coveted by rock, folk and country stars - has denied wrongdoing after US wildlife agents raided its facilities in August over alleged improperly-documented imports of Indian rosewood and ebony.
The raid stirred worries among guitarists that their instruments, particularly those made before the century-old Lacey Act banning trade in endangered wildlife was extended in 2008 to timber, might be seized by customs.
"People are confused... There is uncertainty about what the federal government expects," George Gruhn, a vintage guitar dealer in Nashville who sells instruments worldwide, told the Tennessean newspaper.
Gibson's owner Henry Juszkiewicz went so far as to tell CNN that First Lady Michelle Obama may have broken the law when she took a Gibson acoustic guitar out of the country to give to her French counterpart Carla Bruni in 2009.
The Gibson case has taken on political overtones, with Juszkiewicz - who says his company is the victim of federal "bullying" - invited by Republicans to sit in on President Barack Obama's address to Congress on jobs last week.
Gibson - which also makes Baldwin pianos, Wurlitzer jukeboxes and in Asia, Epiphone guitars - was also raided in November 2009 on suspicion of illegal ebony imports from Madagascar. No charges were brought.
Twitch and shout: Birdwatchers are raving over rare birds in Britain
Investigation launched after manatee drowns at Paris zoo
Melting glaciers are caused by man-made global warming, study shows
The butterfly effect: climate change ‘forced species to adapt’
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 4 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...
£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...
£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...
£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...