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DC Regulators Back Down From Crackdown On Secondhand Stores
May 30, 2012
Secondhand specialty shops in Washington, D.C., had some unwelcome visitors last month: bureaucrats and police telling them they needed special licenses, threatening them with large fines, and otherwise disrupting operations. This was to be the week the District's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs began taking further action against businesses that didn't respond by applying for the license -- but after an online petition drive and at least one business owner's threat to move his store to Virginia, the DCRA met with affected businessmen. Now the agency has announced on Twitter that new regulations will be offered for public comment this Friday:
We're proposing that used books/records stores & vintage clothing stores get a general biz license, not the secondhand dealer license.
The secondhand dealer license costs more than $700. Worse, it requires that every item bought and sold be reported to the Metropolitan Police Department.
The DCRA says the law governing secondhand business licenses has been in effect since 1902. Yet the effort to enforce it against these stores seems to have come as a surprise: a reminder to all of us that thick law books may contain dangers we haven't noticed.
The backdown from the crackdown is good news, but only up to a point. When your freedom to operate is granted by regulation, it can be taken away by regulation. Only firm adherence to principles of rights can provide security for all businesses -- and all rights-respecting individuals.