In a show of resounding bipartisan support for elephant protection, California's ivory ban bill - AB 96 - passed the Assembly last week in a vote of 53-12. And, just a few days later, the Los Angeles Times voiced its support for the bill.
As I've blogged before, AB 96, which was introduced by California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and California State Senator Ricardo Lara, will crack down on California's ivory market and, in turn, the demand for ivory that is fueling poaching by fixing California's broken ivory law. The current law allows the purchase and sale of ivory imported prior to 1977, which has created a parallel illegal market and made the law nearly impossible to enforce.
AB 96 fixes this by eliminating the pre-1977 loophole in California's ivory law and banning the sale, offer for sale, possession with intent to sell, and importation with intent to sell of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. It also increases penalties for those trafficking in ivory and rhino horn to up to $50,000 or an amount equal to two times the value of the wildlife involved in the violation, whichever is greater and/or one year in prison.
(C) Elly Pepper
The bill contains a few reasonable exceptions for antique musical instruments that have proper documentation showing they're old, such as pianos and violin bows. And it exempts antique objects comprised of less than 5% ivory, as the vast majority of the illegal ivory trade involves objects made entirely or almost entirely of ivory. Scientific and educational institutions will continue to be able to buy and sell ivory with certain restrictions under the bill. And owners of ivory objects will retain the right to bequeath them to their heirs.
While the bill's passage is a huge victory for elephants, the bipartisan support for AB 96 is no surprise. Indeed, folks on both sides of the aisle strongly support an ivory ban in California, including almost 90% of self-identified conservative republicans, according to recent polling.
Next stop: the Senate, which will hopefully pass the bill in late August/early September and add California to the handful of states, including New York and New Jersey, committed to saving elephants from extinction.