Gibson Guitar Raid Turns Political
Feds investigate possible imports of endangered wood
By Guvner, Newser User
Posted Aug 31, 2011 11:56 PM CDT
Promoted on Newser Sep 1, 2011 12:39 PM CDT
In this 2010 photo, one of the 70 all-white "Imagine" model John Lennon guitars and one of the 500 replicas of an earlier model played by Lennon are on display at Gibson Acoustic in Bozeman, Mont.   (AP)

(User Submitted) – Allegations of illegal wood imports prompted the Justice Department to raid Gibson Guitar facilities in Tennessee last week. NPR aired the complicated story involving the 100-year old Lacey Act, which prohibits imports of endangered species, including plants, into the US. No formal charges have been pressed, but it appears the issue lies with Gibson possibly importing banned Madagascar ebony. Gibson insists the wood confiscated by marshals was legally acquired rosewood from India.

Adding some gusto to the story, right-leaning sites assert that Gibson rival CF Martin uses the same wood in some of its guitars, but the company was never investigated. The Landmark Report thinks that's fishy, given that Martin's CEO is a Democratic donor and Gibson's CEO is a GOP backer. Raising the octave even higher, it is possible Michelle Obama ran afoul of the Lacey Act when she presented France's Carla Bruni with a Gibson guitar that may have contained banned wood. However the story plays out, many are frustrated with the retroactive aspect of the law. "It's a nightmare," says a dealer. "I can't help it if they used Brazilian rosewood on almost every guitar made prior to 1970."

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Showing 3 of 57 comments
Ultraworld
Sep 2, 2011 6:05 PM CDT
I build & repair guitars for a living & I can't figure these laws out. It's that crazy. Brazilian Rosewood has been illegal to harvest for quite some time. Since instrument makers use such a small amount of this wood, it's purchased from high end furniture makers who have small pieces they can't use. The wood has a stamp on it. A serial number & date harvested is on each ingot. this proves the wood is legit. it's legal to use. The same with Ebony. Does someone with a 60's Martin have to throw it away because it was made with Brazilian Rosewood. How do you go about documenting where & when the tree on your guitar was felled? This is a long shot, but Gibson's boss is a notorious pain in the backside (I'm sugar coating a ton here). I'm wondering if a big pissing match is going on because I'm not hearing about any other companies who use Ebony & Brazillian being raided by the feds.
Riffran
Sep 2, 2011 5:04 AM CDT
The pickers in my family seem to like acoustic/electric Epiphone's . But we have an old 50's Gibson acoustic bass as well
cheongyei
Sep 1, 2011 6:17 PM CDT
If a product was once legal, it is irrational for laws to retroactively affect products made before the law was passed. Doesn't our government have better things to do, like deporting Obyango's illegal relatives? Auntie Onyango and uncle Onyango need to go, along with the rest of the illegal invaders.