Gibson raids prompt congressional action

Oct. 20, 2011 at 9:13 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Three U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to protect guitar sellers and owners from penalties for unknowingly possessing illegal imported woods.

The legislation comes in response to recent federal raids on Gibson Guitars, based in Nashville, which is under investigation for allegedly violating the Lacey Act by illegally importing endangered species of woods, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported.

Tennessee U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, along with California Republican Mary Bono Mack, who was married to musician Sonny Bono at the time of his death, co-sponsored the measure.

"All too often, we find that the regulations coming from bureaucrats in Washington have unintended consequences on the manufacturers, dealers and consumers of goods and services in this country," Blackburn said in a news release. "The selective and excessive enforcement of these regulations are killing jobs and striking fear into the hearts of those who may unknowingly be in violation of the law."

The Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act would protect from sanctions musicians whose older guitars, violins or other instruments were built from woods now deemed endangered and illegal to import.

Specifically, the RELIEF Act would exempt from the century-old Lacey Act any foreign wood products a person owned before May 22, 2008, the date the Lacey Act was last amended.

Under the new measure, anyone who has wood that violates the Lacey Act but doesn't know it would not be penalized, and the government could not confiscate the property.

The RELIEF Act would call on the government to create a database of forbidden wood sources on the Internet to give people fair warning.

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