Guns, Guitars and Government Raids

It's enough to make all tree-hugging, EPA-loving, spotted owl seekers weep.

In August, armed federal agents raided the offices and factories of the legendary Gibson Guitar Corp. in Nashville and Memphis. It was the second time the feds had ransacked the renowned Tennessee guitar-maker since President Barack Obama took office. And what were they going after? Dirty laundering monies? Gun smugglers? Cocaine cargo that could make cartels quiver?


No. The federal search and seizure sought to capture ... ready? Wood. To be exact, rosewood and ebony from India, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had declared to be illegal to import.

Yes, your tax dollars were again hard at work as federal agents sought to bust another pillar of American business by rounding up alleged tree contraband based upon a century-old law. It is called the Lacey Act, which was signed by President William McKinley all the way back on May 25, 1900. Initially, the act was adopted to prevent big-game poachers from killing endangered birds in Africa, particularly to regulate trade in feathered hats. It was later expanded and amended to include endangered plants and illegalize the importing of all forms of fauna and flora, including wood, which was added to the act just three years ago.

So what was Gibson Guitar's specific crime? The feds say Gibson shipped rosewood and ebony that were in an "unfinished" state (i.e., not cut into thin strips or veneer, which is perfectly legal in India). However, Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz says he possesses a letter from the government of India that declares the legality of the wood as a "finished" product for fretboards on the necks of the guitars.

Last week, Fox News further elaborated that Vinod Srivastava, India's deputy director-general of foreign trade, stipulated in a letter dated Sept. 16, "Fingerboard is a finished product and not wood in primary form. The foreign trade policy of the government of India allows free export of such finished products of wood."

Of course, there could be far more up the feds' sleeves regarding these searches of Gibson Guitar, but we'll never know. The Associated Press reported this past week, "Specifics of the investigation by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department have been filed under seal." It probably is filed under the heading "Eric Holder's Fast and Furious holdouts, etc."!

But forget about the feds' "Fast and Furious" gun smuggling crimes and Attorney General Eric Holder's acts of perjury via denial of facts before Congress. Forget about Washington's $528 million debacle with Solyndra. Might as well let go of the billions of dollars that Washington has given to bail out Wall Street over the past few years. And never mind the feds' onslaught of overzealous overreaches and over-regulations on Main Street businesses across the country, because this administration thinks it's high time to further cripple American business by pulling the strings and picking on a staple of the music industry and entrepreneurial spirit. Juszkiewicz recently tweeted the real question that needs to be addressed: "Why is big government spending our money to harm ordinary citizens and small businesses?"

And how pertinent should an ever-expanding and archaic Lacey Act be when it forces Americans to be obliged to follow every other nation's trade laws? If we must bow to other countries' legalities, where are American sovereignty and individual rights? And how long will it be until Interpol oversteps all the boundaries to enforce a universalistic United Nations trade code? At the very least, such federal actions as those taken against Gibson Guitar are reminiscent of those of Lavrenti Beria, the head of Josef Stalin's secret police, who boasted, "Show me the man and I'll find you the crime."

According to The Heritage Foundation, the feds have used the Lacey Act to prosecute orchid growers and spiny lobster importers, too. Now it's guitar manufacturers' turn? And what about tomorrow? What about other companies and guitar-makers, such as Fender, Martin, Taylor, Paul Reed Smith, Ribbecke, Collings and Breedlove, to name a few? What about Gibson retailers and individuals who resell guitars on eBay? What about the purchasers of Gibson guitars — those who possess the wood contraband inlayed in their stringed instruments? There go the likes of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen and millions of others. Buyer beware! Armed federal agents could be coming to a music store, sound studio or house near you.

Please email or call the White House today (at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact or 202-456-1111) and tell the feds to get their eyes off guitars and back on the guns they handed over to Mexican cartels. Then call Gibson Guitar and tell the people there you're joining me in standing with them (http://www.gibson.com/en-us/support or 800-4GIBSON).

Rock on, Gibson Guitar! Or should I say, "Rosewood on, Gibson Guitar!"?

Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris