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The “Ratchet Effect” at Work Once Again, This Time Against Gunsmiths

Monday, October 3, 2016 9:24
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This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 3, 2016:

English: This image is of economist Robert Higgs.

Robert Higgs

In interpersonal relations, the ratchet effect has been called “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is negotiable.” In politics it’s been called “Two steps leftward, one step back.” Robert Higgs, a Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute for nearly a quarter century, described the effect much more elegantly: once a crisis that calls for more government has passed, state power usually recedes, but it rarely returns to its original levels; thus each emergency leaves the scope of government a little wider than before.

Thomas Jefferson put it this way: “The natural progress of things is for the government to gain ground and for liberty to yield.”

The latest example is the State Department, through its Directorate of Defense Trade Affairs (DDTC), expanding its definition of “gunsmithing” so that it is called “manufacturing,” thus allowing it to tax, register, and regulate every gunsmith, hobbyist, and reloader in the country.

The NRA was among the first to complain. Five days after the DDTC sent its letter to every Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) in the U.S., the NRA made clear that the new “guidance” would “require anybody who engages in the business of “manufacturing” [so-defined] … to register with the DDTC and pay a registration fee [of] $2,250 per year. These requirements apply even if the business does not, and does not intend to, export any [firearm].”

Two weeks later dozens of Senators and well over one hundred pro-Second Amendment members of the House responded with a strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State John Kerry stating that “the last thing [those small businesses] need is an edict from the federal government imposing fees and requirements which are wholly unnecessary and nonsensical.”

Of course they are still waiting for Kerry’s reply.

Then, last week, with the help of the NRA, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced a bill in each chamber that would effectively rescind the State Department’s “guidance” issued in July that would have forced many small gunsmiths out of business. The bill is not a direct confrontation but a demand that the Department of State’s alleged authority be transferred to the less anti-gun and more business-friendly Department of Commerce, according to Scalise:

The State Department’s July guidance takes a hostile stance toward gun owners and the Second Amendment. The federal government shouldn’t be treating local gunsmiths like they are international arms dealers. It’s as ludicrous as saying your neighborhood car mechanic is an automobile manufacturer – it just doesn’t add up.

What should have happened next would be a demand that the father of mischief concerning the Second Amendment, the Gun Control Act of 1968, be rescinded. Instead:

Our common-sense, bipartisan bill simply transfers regulatory responsibility for non-military-grade firearms from the Department of State to the Commerce Department – where it belongs – so that it can be regulated like any other commercial business.

There are only two avenues from here: one, the bill passes both houses of Congress, lands on Obama’s desk, and he signs it into law. Only in the English language do the words “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing.

Or, the bill dies in some obscure committee, and the DDTC begins its enforcement of its unconstitutional edict, house to house.

Either way the Second Amendment has once again been infringed upon, thus proving Higgs’s contention, and Jefferson’s, that it’s in the natural course of events for government to expand and for freedom to shrink.

In an earlier time, the “alcohol, tobacco, and firearms” motto would have applied to a convenience store.


What is the ratchet effect?

More elegant explanation of the ratchet effect in government

Jefferson quote

Legislation Introduced to Protect American Gunsmiths From Reckless State Department “Guidance”

Scalise, Daines and Bipartisan Bicameral Coalition Introduce the Export Control Reform Act

The edict from the Justice Department: Applicability of the ITAR Registration Requirement to Firearms Manufacturers and Gunsmiths

NRAILA: Just in Time for His Party’s Convention, Obama Administration Releases Latest Executive Gun Control

NRAILA: Pro-Gun Members of Congress Respond to State Department’s Disastrous Manufacturing “Guidance”


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