Cooper, Blackburn seek changes to illegal wood law - WSMV News 4

Cooper, Blackburn seek changes to illegal wood law

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The federal investigation into Gibson Guitar has caused many guitar owners to worry they might be punished for owning a guitar made with illegal wood. Thursday, two Tennessee lawmakers joined forces to put those fears to rest.

The federal Lacey Act is supposed to protect the environment and punish those who engage in illegal logging.

Lawmakers say it's not supposed to punish musicians, and they want to make sure it doesn't.

The biggest concern a musician wants about his or her guitar is whether or not it's in tune, not whether or not it can warrant an arrest. But currently, under the Lacey Act many people are worried their musical instrument could land them in legal trouble.

"Since the law was so unclear our members were calling us whether even traveling and had a tour and had to go to Germany, Canada or they carrying something illegal," Craig Krampf, with the Nashville Musicians Association, said.

It all stems from the raids on Gibson by federal government agents. They allege that the company violated the law by importing illegal wood from overseas to make its guitars.

Now, U.S. Congressmen Jim Cooper and Marsha Blackburn are trying to clarify the Lacey Act to make sure those musicians aren't punished.

"Let's make the law right because guitars should have never been made questionable or even illegal," Rep. Cooper, D-Nashville, said.

They are proposing a bill that would exempt any foreign wood products purchased before May 2008. It would also protect those who might unknowingly own illegal wood from punishment or penalties.

The plan would not impact Gibson's current case or change any laws against illegal logging.

The goal is to make sure those involved in illegal logging face the music, but not stop those who are making music.

"There are unintended consequences, so the Relief Act is designed to address those unintended consequences," Rep. Blackburn, R-Brentwood, said.

Cooper and Blackburn hope to get enough support to pass the plan as soon as possible, but in Washington time they acknowledge that could be weeks or even months.

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