AB 96 Will Unfairly Penalize Californians for Ownership of Antique Ivory

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The California Chapter of Safari Club International Opposes AB 96 after hearing in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, Saying it Does Nothing to Combat Black Market Trade while Criminalizing Californians for Ivory Ownership

While well-intentioned, this bill will only unnecessarily harm law-abiding citizens by criminalizing the possession of ivory within family antiques.

Citing its longstanding efforts to eliminate the illegal poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa, the California Chapters of Safari Club International (SCI) today announced its opposition to Assembly Bill 96 (Atkins) introduced in January 2015, saying measure would only create a nightmare for Californians and result in innumerable unintended consequences.

“We are one-hundred percent against the poaching of animals and support the dozens of existing international, federal and state laws cracking down on the illegal ivory trade,” said Lisa McNamee, the Co-Legislative Coordinator SCI’s California Chapters. “Unfortunately, AB 96 is an empty bill that does nothing to combat the real problem.”

SCI’s opposition, she said, is based on the following:

  •     California and the federal government have already weighed in on the fight against the ivory trade, and several laws are currently in place that are effective at reducing this type of crime. The purchase of ivory was made illegal in California in 1977.
  •     Such laws have already resulted in a drop in the illegal ivory trade. A 2015 NRDC study has shown significant declines: Los Angeles saw a 69 percent drop; in San Francisco the decline was 44 percent.
  •     Because of the proposed new restrictions on items legally obtained and currently possessed, the bill would only serve to harm the lawful owners of items such as artwork, native jewelry, and other collectibles containing ivory.
  •     It creates penalties that are actually more severe than for illegally possessing a firearm under Prop 47.
  •     Banning the sale or purchase of items incorporating pieces of ivory, rhinoceros horn or other animal parts that were lawfully possessed, prior to 1977, would do nothing to stop or slow down the future illegal take of animals in other countries.
  •     For most affected items, it would be impossible to provide the documentation specified in AB 96 to qualify for the extremely limited and impractical exemptions provided in the bill. For example, residents who currently possess artwork and antiques made entirely of lawfully obtained ivory could not meet the specified percentage limitations in the bill.    
  •     The provisions of AB 96 cannot possibly affect the take of species and the lawfully possessed parts of them that has occurred in the past.
  •     The measure will cost $1 million per year and divert money and resources away from more impactful programs to protect wildlife.

“We believe any new law should not be retroactively impose new documentation requirements on people who have had these items for generations,” said McNamee. “For AB 96 to have any meaningful impact it should continue the exemption in existing law for the possession, sale, and other transfer of ivory lawfully possessed at the present time. It needs to instead focus on commerce in ivory that is not possessed in compliance with present law. Furthermore, the proper venue for this kind of legislation should be at the federal level in order to have uniform laws nationally for items originating from outside the United States, not at the individual state level.”

According to SCI, implementation of AB 96 will disrupt the network of carefully crafted laws already in place that control the ivory industry, while punishing California residents.

“AB 96 is highly flawed,” said McNamee. “While well-intentioned, this bill will only unnecessarily harm law-abiding citizens by criminalizing the possession of ivory within family antiques. It’s really a shame that we are putting our residents at risk for simply wanting to pass down grandma’s favorite family heirloom.”


Safari Club International – First For Hunters is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide. SCI has approximately 200 Chapters worldwide and its members represent all 50 of the United States as well as 106 other countries. SCI’s proactive leadership in a host of cooperative wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian programs, with the SCI Foundation and other conservation groups, research institutions and government agencies, empowers sportsmen to be contributing community members and participants in sound wildlife management and conservation. Visit the home page for more information http://www.safariclub.org.

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