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DC Regulators Back Down from Crackdown on Secondhand Stores

DC Regulators Back Down from Crackdown on Secondhand Stores

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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.