Trade in new items made of ivory is illegal in the United States. The ban was put in place in 1989 to save the lives of the world’s dwindling elephant population and to keep them from being heartlessly killed solely for their tusks. It’s a sensible ban, granted, but now Obama has arbitrarily taken that needless next step to ban even those ivory items made before the ban, a move that makes no sense at all.
Since time immemorial, items made from ivory have been prized by humans. Elephant tusks are a very pleasing looking material and makes beautiful decorative carvings. And even today, even after the ban, items that were made in the hundreds of years before the ban are prized on the collector’s and antiques markets.
But now Obama has decided that collectors and antiques dealers are criminals for even daring to own ivory items from pre-ban eras. The administration is moving to make sale or possession of any ivory, even pre-ban ivory, a crime.
Of course, it is absurd to claim that banning antiques that were made before the efforts to save elephants will help save living elephants today. Antique ivory items were made of dead elephants long ago and banning those pre-ban items now won’t do a thing to help save today’s live pachyderms.
In fact, banning pre-ban ivory may even put elephants in danger as the black market will surely grow in prominence with such a ban on antiques.
Doug Bandow of Forbes reports that Obama is now needlessly changing the rules on old, pre-ban ivory.
The new rules would not only pointlessly cut legal, law-abiding American collectors off from the rest of the world, it would also shift the burden of proof of violation from the government, where it currently resides, to the public. Meaning that Obama’s government would consider you guilty until you prove yourself innocent. The government would now assume it has the power to fine you, jail you, and confiscate your ivory collection before you’d have any chance to defend yourself.
As Bandow writes, “The administration rule unfairly penalizes thousands of collectors, dealers, and other Americans. They followed the law. They spent money in reliance on the rules. And now the government has declared their collections and inventories to be essentially worthless. Only those with money–and the most valuable ivory pieces–will be able to legally comply. If you possess a $20,000 carving, you have an incentive to jump through the administrative and financial hoops to get a CITES certificate. If you possess $20,000 worth of average ivory netsukes, most worth perhaps $100 or $200, then your holdings are effectively valueless.”
It is, of course, a worthy goal to protect the world’s elephants, but the US can’t really do that effectively since we have no such animal roaming wild spaces among us. Unfortunately, those animals are not native to the US and are now in danger in countries wracked by poachers, civil wars, and weakened governments that have few resources to protect the noble beasts.
Obama’s new rules are arbitrary and may, in fact, make matters worse.
“Indeed, the administration’s new regulations are worse than unfair,” Bandow concludes. “They are counterproductive. They will expand the illegal ivory market, divert enforcement resources, and push owners of legal ivory into the illegal trade. Which means more elephants are likely to die. Surely that is not the legacy desired by President Obama.”
But this is all of a piece with this arrogant, lawless president who imagines that he is the law, that his imperial rule is sacrosanct. Obama’s arrogance knows no bounds and this is yet one more example of it.
Of course, we know that Obama is interested in saving the animals from the land of his birth, and all, but… (OK, OK, just joking. Sheese!)