Add U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper to the list of lawmakers rallying to the side of Gibson Guitar.
Cooper told a group of reporters this morning that Congress drew up a law that protects endangered plants way too broadly, setting up last month’s raid by federal agents of Gibson’s facilities in Memphis and Nashville.
“Nothing is grandfathered,” he said. “To make all these instruments — these magnificent instruments — unsalable and un-transferable and un-shippable … this is just like way too broad.”
Gibson is alleged to have violated the Lacey Act, a century-old law banning the importation of endangered species, but the guitar maker says the federal government overreached when it seized ebony and rosewood parts. The goods, which are prized by guitarists, were imported from sources that Gibson has been using for years, the company says.
Cooper voted against the 2008 agriculture bill that extended the Lacey Act to cover plants (though he said it was s because problems he had with other parts of the bill), and he says Congress may need to step in to make it clear that it is not illegal to buy and sell wood that was cut down before the law went into effect.
Cooper said the law, as it’s currently written, makes it impossible to buy and sell older guitars, which he compared to ivory-keyed pianos and Stradivarius violins.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey also has been banging the drum on this issue. He released a message to his supporters Monday morning that said it’s not the U.S. government’s place to get involved in allegations that Gibson broke another country’s laws.
Our government executed criminal warrants based on one interpretation of another country’s laws. This would be funny if it wasn’t so downright scary.
A federal raid is a not a small thing. It is a serious undertaking that has consequences for the business against whom it is conducted.