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Gibson Guitars, Senators & The Lacey Act

02:01 PM Friday 6/1/12 |   |

No, the Obama Administration is not going to ban the summer concert season, recent headlines to the contrary.

But the ongoing dispute between Gibson Guitar and the feds over the use of imported woods barred by the Lacey Act continues to provide fodder during the never-ending political season. Hoping to put an end to that are U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), with a new attempt to close loopholes and clarify the regulations.

While the bipartisan effort is in its infancy, Alexander says the pair is working to make clear that the Lacey Act “was not intended to seize instruments made of wood harvested before 2008.”

“Senator Wyden and I will work first to achieve these goals through administrative regulation because it produces a faster result, but, failing that, we’re prepared to introduce legislation to amend the law,” Alexander said.

In the statement, Alexander hypothetically alluded to country artists being held up at the Canadian border and their instruments seized, prompting some of the more colorful among the conservative media, including the Washington Examiner, to state that President Barack Obama “declares war” on the summer concert season. Buried in the Examiner’s story is the admission that Obama administration officials flatly deny that artists will be detained at the border over their guitars.

Gibson Guitar facilities in Nashville were raided once in 2009 and again last year, with federal agents seizing as evidence several guitars that were suspected of being made from contraband wood.

Since that time, the guitar company has hired a lobbying firm, the Tennessean reported, and supported a bill introduced by state representatives Jim Cooper and Marsha Blackburn that would provide protections for those who unknowingly possess illegally imported wood.

Alexander and Wyden are taking the administrative, rather than legislative, route before attempting to develop a bill.

“Senator Wyden and I are going to write the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a letter in the next couple of weeks and try to make it clear that wood harvested before 2008 to make musical instruments can’t be seized by the federal government.”

Alexander said in the May 18 statement that he hopes to have the issue resolved with a clear ruling. If not, he and Wyden intend to introduce legislation to amend the act.

“We are also working to make clear which laws apply and don’t apply to businesses importing and manufacturing with wood, and to remove burdensome regulations on importers and instrument manufacturers,” Alexander said.

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