The NRA’s Stealth Campaign Against Ivory Bans

There has been a global cry to end the sale of ivory and related items as the populations of elephants and rhinos have been depleted to terrifying levels due to poaching. The increased demand for ivory-made products in China and the United States has led to a lucrative and often underground worldwide trade that funds conflicts in the nations these animals live in, as well as terrorism. As activists lobby and petition state governments to ban the sale and import of ivory, not surprisingly game hunters and those who profit from the trade fight back. However, in the United States, it is the stealth campaign of the National Rifle Association that has worked the hardest to push back against the ban.

When the Obama Administration announced proposed rules to revise the Endangered Species Act to ban nearly all imports and sale of elephant ivory, the NRA immediately began lobbying Congress to stop the rule from going forward. Comments on the changes closed on September 28, 2015, and they†will be reviewed as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes the rules (and do not need Congressí approval to be implemented). As the rule stands now, raw ivory is banned and items containing ivory that were lawfully imported prior to January 18, 1990 (1975 if itís from an Asian elephant) can be lawfully sold across state lines. It bans all commercial imports of ivory made items, with exceptions for antiques, certain musical instruments, sports hunted trophies and imports for law enforcement or scientific purposes.

While it was popular in the 1800s and early 1900s to make guns with ivory handles and similar embellishments, the existing ones are largely antiques and are protected under the rules as long as they are at least 100 years old or older. However, the NRA claims that this restriction puts an undue burden on sellers, who will now be required to authenticate that the firearm is indeed an antique. Furthermore, they say such rules would also make it impossible for owners of these antiques to sell those that were restored or to repair the ivory parts.

When legislation was introduced in California to close a state loophole that still allowed the importation of ivory and items made with it prior to 1977, the NRA argued similar points. Like the proposed federal rules, Californiaís has an exception for antique guns. In a statement after Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation into law in October, which bans ivory from ten different animals, the organization said the exception was not enough:†”While the NRA stands in opposition to the illegal ivory trade and poaching, banning the trade and sale of legally owned, pre-ban ivory will not save any elephants and is simply a symbolic measure that deprives law-abiding citizens of property that was obtained legally and in good faith.”

However, that isnít exactly true.

Investigations have shown that the antique loophole has often been used as a cover for illegal ivory. It is impossible to tell how old ivory is without scientific testing and, therefore, a blanket ban is seen as the best way to reduce the amount of illegal trade. For owners and importers that can verify with the required documentation that their antique is indeed at least 100-years-old, the items will be allowed.

It also doesnít prohibit family heirlooms from being passed on or transported within the United States. If an owner wishes to sell an antique, yes, they would have to pay for the scientific testing or provide other authenticating evidence of its status. While it may seem cumbersome for the small percentage of gun owners that may run into problems, it is specifically designed to be difficult in order to curb illegal trade. It is a small price to pay to reduce the number of people that are killed in pursuit of this luxury, and prevent the extinction of some of natureís most magnificent creatures.

Photo Credit: Anup Shah via Thinkstock


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

james C.
james C3 years ago

The NRA does not need members as most of its income comes from the gun makers. People think that the NRA are Imbeciles, they are not, their job is to sell more and more weapons, just like any other big corporation.

Monica R.
Monica R3 years ago

The NRA is to animals what ISIS is to people, a terrorist organization

mari s.
Mari S3 years ago

Horrific & shameful! ---- We MUST do everything to protect these precious animals AND their ivory which belongs to them --- IVORY must be BANNED everywhere -- there are NO EXEMPTIONS. --- SHAME ON THE NRA.

Nelson Petrie
Nelson Petrie3 years ago

Why isn't the NRA organisation itself be banned once and for all. This organisation ought to be termed as an terrorist outfit in the USA. It is because of the NRA, militancy like the one in Oregon is rising.I hope the next President (hopefully a Democrat) will give his/her complete endorsement to the total ban of ivory import to the USA as well as pass on the message to China.

Dt Nc
Dt Nc3 years ago

Hunt the hunters -- now that is a worthy sport

Dt Nc
Dt Nc3 years ago


Ana Luisa Luque M.

Sports hunters=NRA. Kill all of them.

chris b.
chris B3 years ago

Sports hunted trophies are the exceptions? Don't think so - sorry but the NRA should have nothing to do with banning ivory in any form. What? Is the NRA now like a big corporation that has all this power? Just stop the poaching, no more ivory. Not even from very old deceased elephants. Let them go with all of their parts. NRA sucks.

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

Another reason to kick NRA to curb.