By Mark Wachtler
September 29, 2014. San Rafael, CA. (ONN) Elephant lovers across America are assembling to take on the firearms industry, and the sportsmen and collectors that fill its ranks. Groups like our good friends at In Defense of Animals are fighting for the defeat of Republican legislation that could eliminate bans on poached elephant ivory to make gun and knife handles. At the same time, a Democratic Congressman just introduced opposing legislation that would put sanctions on countries that protect illegal ivory poachers.
This is what’s left of an elephant after ivory poachers are finished. Image courtesy of OurEndangeredWorld.com.
For the record, we at Whiteout Press wholeheartedly support the Second Amendment. But we don’t support making elephants extinct just so guns and knives can have ivory handles. This is a losing battle for gun owners and Second Amendment defenders. Just as surely as their defense of putting endangered tigers in cages, shooting them, and then coming back to the US with dishonest tales of hunting big cats on dangerous safaris was. Gun owners don’t need ivory-handled firearms any more than they need handles made out of bald eagle skins or golden retriever paws.
GOP Bills to stop protecting Elephants
Earlier this year, Republicans introduced legislation in both houses of Congress that would eliminate the stricter monitoring of illegal ivory trafficking that went into effect in February 2014. Titled, the Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014, the Bill would protect the legal sale and ownership of ivory in the US and would hamper methods that differentiate between legal and illegal ivory. The legislation would keep the burden of proof on the government and not the gun or knife owner, which is good. But it also stops the government from finding out which ivory was legally imported and which ivory was poached and criminally trafficked into the US, which is bad.
In the House, HR 5052 is sponsored by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT). And in the Senate, SB 2587 is sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Currently, both Bills are in Committee - the Natural Resources Committee in the House and the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate. Mounting resistance to the legislation is being led by our friends at In Defense of Animals.
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‘Senator Alexander, with the support from Congressman Steve Daines, claim to be concerned about the new rules impacting any owners of “legal” ivory,’ the organization announced, ‘However the FWS’s (Fish and Wildlife Service) new rules allow for the possession of legally owned ivory. So in reality, their concern is for gun owners and “sportsmen” whose guns and rifles, knives, and weapon cleaning equipment often contain ivory from killed elephants and for elephant trophy hunters.’
The group goes on to explain the dilemma saying, ‘The FWS's efforts to establish rules to prohibit or restrict the possession, sale, or transport of elephant ivory within the US are urgently needed as any ivory trade increases the demand for ivory and encourages poaching, particularly because it is so difficult to tell old ivory apart from new ivory.’ According to statistics covering 2013, between 35,000-40,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory tusks. Just as tragic, an estimated 1,000 Park Rangers are murdered each year defending the elephants from armed poachers.
In Defense of Animals has created an online petition/letter where supporters can easily send a message to their own member of Congress. ‘Elephant poaching is an unprecedented crisis that feeds transnational criminal networks, terrorism, human trafficking, violence and instability across the African continent,’ their sample text reads, ‘As the second largest market for ivory in the world, the US needs to lead global efforts to shut down the global trade in ivory immediately.’
The TUSKER Act - defending elephants from poachers
In a report from yesterday’s Guardian Liberty Voice, the outlet reports that the endangered African elephant received some powerful new allies. One of them is Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) who just introduced HB 5454, a Bill that calls for sanctions against countries that protect the illegal elephant poaching industry. The legislation is titled the TUSKER Act - Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range.
The report explains, ‘He [Rep. DeFazio] charges that money from illegal elephant trafficking funds the criminal activities of drug syndicates, gunrunners and human trafficking operations as well as terrorist groups whose activities destabilize large regions of Africa and threaten US national security. His goal is to put a stranglehold on the market to send a bold message of economic consequences for countries that allow illegal trafficking to continue unhindered.’
The Congressman cites US and UN statistics which estimate yearly revenue from criminal elephant poaching and ivory trafficking at $7-$10 billion. They warn that evidence shows much of that money is used to fund global terror organizations like al-Qaeda and al-Shabab. For years, Islamic jihadist armies have been pushing south from their North African bases in countries like Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Sudan. The need to fund paramilitary groups on both sides, as well as national and civil wars, has led to the disappearance of elephants throughout all of the North-Central African conflict zones, leaving them only in some Central African stretches of land and a handful of reserves.
In a press release coinciding with his introduction of the TUSKER Act, Bill sponsor Rep. Peter DeFazio quoted a number of grassroots organizations lining up in support of his legislation. They include the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Born Free USA.
Global March for Elephants and Rhinos - Oct 4th
Illustrating how much passion there is in the US and around the world in the effort to save elephants and rhinos from extinction because of their valuable ivory tusks, a global march is being organized to raise awareness. According to the march’s website, the demonstration will be held simultaneously on October 4th in cities around the world.
‘On October 4th people in cities throughout the world will march as one voice to save Elephants and Rhinos. The countdown to their extinction has begun,’ demonstration organizers announced, ‘Unless action is taken now, we will lose these majestic, highly intelligent, and emotionally sentient creatures FOREVER.’
So far, marches have been organized in countries across the globe, as well as 38 cities in the US. To view the full list of American cities hosting their own local March for Elephants and Rhinos, visit March4ElephantsAndRhinos.org.