Track Ivory Legislation

Updated on October 5, 2015

In 2013, the Obama administration created a taskforce to address the effects of wildlife trafficking.  As a result, in 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began the process of implementing new regulations that essentially bans all commercial trade of products containing any quantity of elephant ivory, even those which are not purchased because of their ivory content. NAMM and its members support all efforts to end the illegal slaughter of elephants and their subsequent sale of their tusks for any purpose. Concerns remain over the unintended consequences of making vintage musical instruments, which may contain minute amounts of ivory, illegal. NAMM is diligently working with stakeholders and policymakers to achieve a reasonable and fair resolution.   Several states are taking up this issue and creating trade requirements for ivory within their state borders.  However, federal rules and regulations that are still in development may trump state laws.  Overtime, there will be a need to coordinate federal and state requirements for legal trade of instruments with ivory which is among the concerns expressed to both federal and state legislators.

As NAMM tracks these activities, it is providing formal comments as legislation is considered.

Track and learn more about proposed federal rules and state efforts below.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While a final rule has not been release, FWS has issued Director’s Order 210. Additionally, FWS has set up a Q&A section on ivory trade.

Federal Legislation

On July 15, Senators Daines (R, MT) and Alexander ( R, TN)  introduced the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act (S. 1769).  If approved the proposal, among other things, would:  

  • Allow for the import, export, sale or possession of ivory products for museum displays or personal use
  • Prevent regulatory requirements proposed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director’s Order 210
  • Allow the import of some sport-hunted African elephant trophies
  • Provide financial assistance to projects in countries to curb ivory poaching
  • Allow the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of State, to post U.S. FWS enforcement officers in African countries with significant elephant population to facilitate in the apprehension of individuals who kill or assist in killing African elephants

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives introduced a similar bill, H.R. 697, earlier this year. That bill has been combined with another bill, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (also known as the SHARE Act or H.R. 2406), which is currently pending action in various House Committees.  


California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill (AB96) which bans virtually all elephant and mammoth ivory sales within the state effective July 1, 2016. The bill exempts musical instruments with less than 20% ivory by volume provided the seller has "historical documentation" showing the instrument's provenance and demonstrating that it was manufactured not later than 1975. NAMM has issued a detailed response to the newly approved proposal. 


The Connecticut legislature has introduced a total of 4 bills: HB 5470, HB 5700, HB 5718HB 5731 and HB 6955. While all five bills differ slightly, all ban ivory products. None of these bills have moved through the committees of jurisdiction. NAMM has issued a detailed response to HB 6955. 


On February 20, 2015, the Florida Senate introduced SB 1120. The proposed legislation would ban ivory articles and rhinoceros horns by specifically prohibiting the manufacture, sale, purchase and distribution of these products. The bill has been referred to committees.


Both chambers in the Hawaii legislature have introduced legislation banning ivory products. HB 837 was introduced on January 28 and has been referred to committees of jurisdiction. The Senate also introduced SB 674 which similarly prohibits the sale or trade of ivory or rhinoceros horn, though with some exemptions. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Environment and the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection but both have deferred the bill for the moment.


State Senator Linda Holmes introduced the Ivory Ban Act (SB 1858) on February 20, 2015.  The bill would make importing, selling or buying ivory, ivory products, rhinoceros horn or rhinoceros horn products unlawful. No further action has been reported since it was introduced.


Delegate Eric Luedtke introduced HB713 on February 12, 2015. If approved, this measure would have prohibited the purchase, sell, or intent to sale products containing ivory or rhinoceros horn.The bill failed to garner enough support to advance as it received an unfavorable report by the committee of jurisdiction on March 16, 2015. 


Representatives Lori Ehrlich and Jason Lewis have introduced bill H1275 which would ban the commerce of all products containing ivory. If approved, the current version of the bill will make it impossible for retailers and individuals to sell vintage instruments that contain any amount of ivory. A hearing has been schedule for October 21, 2015. NAMM has issued a response to H1275

New Jersey

On August 4, 2014, Governor Christie signed bill S2012 into law imposing a total ban on importing, selling, offering to sell, purchasing, or possessing with intent to sell any ivory product including musical instruments regardless of the product's age.  The bill allows the state Department of Environmental Protection to issue rules permitting import, possession or sale for bona fide educational or scientific purposes.  A first offender can be fined $1,000 or twice the total value of the ivory product, whichever is greater.

New York

On August 12, 2014, Governor Cuomo signed a similar bill (S7890) into law but allows exceptions to the ban for (a) a bona fide antique that has less than 20% by volume of ivory and the antique status can be established by the owner or seller of the product through "historical documentation evidencing provenance and showing the antique to be not less than 100 years old," and (b) a musical instrument containing ivory which was manufactured not later than 1975.  The Department of Environmental Conservation is authorized to issue rules setting forth what kind of documentation an instrument seller must have to demonstrate provenance and manufacture date. The musical instrument exception was added in the late stages of legislative debate as a result of efforts by a coalition of music industry groups including NAMM. New York's Department of Environmental Conservation requires any seller of ivory-containing products to obtain a permit to do so from the agency.


On March 17, 2015 legislatures in the Nevada state senate introduced SB 398. The bill aims to ban the sale or transfer of ivory and ivory products in the state. Notably, the proposal would allow certain exemptions for the following cases: antiques with small amounts of ivory, educational or scientific purposes, estate transfers, or musical instruments manufactured before December 31, 1975. NAMM has issued a detailed reponse to SB 398. 


Representative Mike Shelton introduced HB 1787 on January 22, 2015. If approved, the measure would prohibit the import, sale, purchase, barter or intention to sale ivory or rhinoceros horn products. The law would allow for certain exceptions including for educational or scientific purposes, documented antiques, musical instruments and firearms older than 1975.


The Oregon Senate Committee on Judiciary introduced SB 913 on March 3, 2015. The proposal would prohibit the import, sale, and purchase, among other things, of ivory products or part of a tusk or tooth from an elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, narwhal, walrus, or whale. In essence, this measure outlaws the commerical trade of all ivory products. While the measure allows for some exemptions, these do not cover musical instruments. The Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on March 24, 2015. You can track any legislative progress through the Oregon State Legislature

A ban on ivory product sales may also derive from a ballot initiative. If sponsors are able to collect enough signatures, a ballot initiative may appear on the 2016 ballot. 


SB 1215 was introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin. The proposal would make the import, sale, purchase, barter or possession with intent to sale of ivory, ivory products or rhinoceros horn products a class one misdemeanor. Second offenses would elevator the penalty to a class six felony. On January 26, the bill was referred to committee of jurisdiction where it failed to garner the support needed to advance.


In January, the Washington state legislature introduced a bill (SB 5241) that, if approved, would ban many products containing elephant and mammoth ivory. NAMM has issued a detailed response to this proposal.  

Additionally, a ballot initiative backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has been filed in Washington State.  The proposal would ban trade in several endangered species, including African elephant, but contains an exemption for musical instruments containing less than 15% by volume of ivory. To qualify for the November ballot, the proposal needs more than 246,000 signatures by July 2.  If the signatures are collected and if the voters approve, the initiative as written becomes law.