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  • Gibson Guitar Plays the Overcriminalization Blues

    Do you know all the laws of the United States?  Do you know all the laws of each of the 50 states (not to mention the assorted territories, Indian reservations, and other enclaves)?  Probably not.  And yet “ignorance of the law is no excuse” has been a maxim of criminal law since time immemorial.  The result is an ever-expanding discretion for prosecutors – who now can pick a target for an investigation and then scour the statutes for a suitable crime with which to charge him.  As Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s head of the dreaded secret police said proudly, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

    Now multiply that by 200 times – that being roughly the number of countries there are in the world – and you have some idea of the jeopardy that arises by operation of the Lacey Act.  The Act was first adopted in the early 1900s with a wholly benign purpose of preventing big game poachers from killing endangered species in Africa.  But because it was difficult to know all of the many prohibitions in African countries, the law used a short-cut and simply made it a crime to take and import any animal in violation of the laws of another country.  No big deal, when animal imports were few and far between and federal criminal prosecutions rarer than hen’s teeth.

    No longer.  The Lacey Act has since been expanded, first to cover endangered plants (like, say, orchids) and most recently to cover all forms of flora and fauna, including wood.  Now you can begin to get the picture – if you use wood in the construction of any product and the wood is imported from overseas, you are obliged to know the laws of every country from which the wood is imported – and not just the laws, but even down to the most picayune regulations.

    Something like that seems to have happened to Gibson Guitar – the fabled guitar manufacturers of Tennessee.  Federal agents raided their factories and seized some wood – wood the company says came from a Forest Stewardship Council certified provider.   Reports vary, but it appears that the allegation is that the wood shipped from India was not a finished product, but only raw materials.  Had it been “finished” in India (cut into thinner pieces) then no Indian regulation would have been broken.

    Of  course, it is possible that we may not know all of the facts of the Gibson case.  Perhaps the company was more than negligent and willfully violated the law – that is what the criminal process is intended to discover.  But there is one thing we do know: the Lacey Act creates traps for the wary and unwary alike.  Any law that incorporates by reference the millions of laws and statutes of the hundreds of nations around the globe is an overbroad formula for prosecutorial overreach and needs to be changed.

    In the past, the Lacey Act has been used to prosecute spiny lobster importers and orchid growers.  Today it is guitar manufacturers and tomorrow, who knows – fruit importers?  Perhaps the First Lady’s interest in nutrition will prevent that.  But it is time, and well past time, for this law to be changed.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to Gibson Guitar Plays the Overcriminalization Blues

    1. Bobbie says:

      the laws are abused when there is no accountability in the white house with an agenda in focus. The president makes the laws as he goes to damn and confuse the laws before. Will it be stopped? hold all accountable! We're Americans and no skin color is superior to another. ACCOUNTABILITY PLEASE!!!!

    2. dref says:

      Forget combating drug cartels, hunting down terrorists and tracking down serial killers, finding out whether imported wood was chopped into thin enough pieces is much more important work for the Feds!

    3. cod says:

      'The Act was first adopted in the early 1900s with a wholly benign purpose of preventing big game poachers from killing endangered species in Africa. But because it was difficult to know all of the many prohibitions in African countries, the law used a short-cut and simply made it a crime to take and import any animal in violation of the laws of another country.'

      From my research I find that this is not the case. The original intent of the law had more to do with the decimation of US wildlife and transporting across state lines. The law was a response to dwindling wildlife in America, authored by Lacey, a good friend of the original conservationist, Teddy Roosevelt. Without it many US game species would be extinct.
      If Gibson guitars wants to wrap themselves in the 'cloak of American liberty', perhaps they should stop using Indian wood, which is rapidly diminishing even with protections. It should also be noted that calling Gibson guitar a 'small company' is a misnomer at best. It is a multinational company, the majority of its brands are probably made in Asia. You don't hear a lot about that in the context of this debate.

      • Yadda yadda says:

        Nice straw man argument. First, I read no quote from Gibson wrapping themselves in American Liberty. Then you try and make some tie between the greedy CORP (yes a four letter word) and the exploited world resources. Oh woe to me…

        I don't care if they are a small company or a big company. Did they break any law. So far no charges?

        They should be able to use any wood that is legally harvested. The kind of wood used for the guitars does not grow in the USA.

        The many reports so far seem to note the company thought they were following the law.

      • Bobbie says:

        are you and the government of America insulting Indians not to have the intelligence to make good business decisions on their own? Can't even sell their own? That's pretty low of you and the government of America! IT'S neither of your business.

      • Searching4freedom says:

        They MAY NEED to stop using Indian wood, in the 'thickness' or state they purchased it in, but that is not the point here. The point is: 1. Were they notified that the wood might fall under the expansion of the Lacey Law, and given fair time to investigate and respond? (Perhaps even: 3 months?) 2. If they have been in business as long as they have, I certainly would have supposed a LEGAL NOTIFICATION would have been in order, with sufficient response time. 3. If they were found to be in violation, two questions surface: a. intentional…or, b. without knowledge. 4. For a first offense, in any case, a FINE WOULD HAVE BEEN AN APPROPRIATE WARNING. 5. A prescribed period of time in which to correct should have followed. So, don't tell me that the United States is now in the business of deciding, judging and issuing the "judgement", all without 'due course' of courts and procedures. This is an extremely DANGEROUS FORMULA for you and the rest of the nation. Lastly, we seem to forget all the people working at Gibson, right? Not me.

    4. Steve H says:

      I think a company as large as Gibson should be able to hire someone to make sure they are following laws, particulalry is they are large enough to get invovled in importing woods from the other side of the globe.

    5. carol,az says:

      This recent act by Obama Gate has stoop to a new low on the sleaze meter
      As mentioned in the post by cod;, " Gibson guitar is a multi-national company" and a stand-out as one of America's finest guitar makers.
      Any musician knows the quality for their craft , now it's made, and the branding that stand behind it , IS key for musical instruments.
      So let see what else we can screw up?
      Michelle has kiddy fat farm seminars, forgetting to mention that as this school years opens ,~ 750,000, children are living in homeless shelters and unreported number unaccounted for, as the faceless homeless across America.

    6. Gman says:

      It's politics, Gibson has given mostly to the GOP, Martin guitars has given to the Dems, they both get their imported wood from some of the same countries, you don't see Martin guitars on the hot seat for not having their imported wood "finished" i.e. Cut into thin strips.

      • Texaschic says:

        You are exactly right, Gman. We saw this when the government picked and chose automobile dealerships based on this same political criteria. Good call.

    7. chatmandu002 says:

      The bigger the government the fewer the freedoms the greater the oppression.

    8. Lloyd Scallan says:

      This is not about the "Lacey Act". It's about Obama using intimidation tactics that have been used by every criminal organizations since time began. If you don't support Obama and his policies, you will be attacked using any means available! The Obama led DOJ, using an obscure law that was never intended to be used as it was, send armed federal agents into a legidament business, who's CEO just happens NOT to support Obama. Yet during the BP oil spill, Obama used another obacure law (The Jones Act) to NOT help keeping crude from reaching shore, to justified his drilling moratorium This guy picks and chooses only the laws that will help him gain any political advantage, including criminal tactics.

    9. hahaha says:

      But the US constitution explicitly and unambiguously forbid any authorities to enforce any foreign law on US soil.

      So it is very clear to me that these federal bureaucrats are breaking the law by trying to enforce the law of India in the united state and this regardless of what the Lacey Act say.

      So who from the federal government and the police do we need to put in prison?

      The irony of all is that no Indian law has been broken but this is beyond the point.

    10. Bob says:

      I think OSHA should bust her for no respirator!

    11. gon4beer says:

      I own 2 Gibson guitars-a 335 and a Les Paul deluxe. Also own 4 other guitars and love them all. This issue isn't about law, it's about Mr. Alinsky and his rules-note the Wall street ruckus sponsored in large part by Soros-this is all orchestrated and purposeful. While the Gibson case is egregious, it is just one small case, and serves to distract from the left's major goals, and we all know what they are. This too, shall pass, so don't um, "fret" about it too much.

    12. meme2 says:

      The question might be the answer; did Gibson Company make a large contribution to the Republican Party?

    13. Sam says:

      Can anyone tell me why Gibson.com shared the same IP address as CFR.ORG {Council on Foreign Relations}?

      They have both since moved to Amazon but at a time these four sites shared the same IP address:


      December 11, 2011
      Gibson Guitar CEO warns that jobs may be sent overseas in aftermath of DOJ raid http://dailycaller.com/2011/10/13/gibson-guitar-c

    14. lee says:

      good for gibson, i'd go overseas too..

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