City Police Chief: City and Police Should License and Track Gold

This story comes from a town 14 miles from my home from a city of about 80,000 people. The contents of the story were not covered by any of the local newspapers and none of the local coin shops had any idea such a hearing was going on. But it is a very good demonstration that you can make a difference most importantly in your local area if you just show up. Below the article is my speech to the Nampa City Council.

On Tuesday, January 18th, the Nampa, Idaho city council met and on the agenda was a hearing for an ordinance proposed by the Nampa Chief of Police Bill Augsburger to closely scrutinize and regulate dealers in precious metals and semi-precious stones, either coin or jewelry.

The proposed ordinance called for the licensing of precious metals dealers, applying to jewelry stores as well as coin shops and would entail:

Owners and employees in such stores be licensed and have background checks with fingerprinting at the expense of the employer,

Bonds would be required as well as liability insurance in the amount of $500,000,

Every dealer shall keep a record of every article purchased, including photo identification, address and signature,

All records of purchase or sale at the end of the day will be transmitted to the Nampa Police Department, including the photo ID.

Few had knowledge of the proposal before it was presented before the council in detail by the police chief.

Needless to say, such an ordinance sounds rather Draconian and adds to growing fears of the possibility of confiscation by various governments in the event of economic crisis. In 1933, President Roosevelt signed executive order 6102, “requiring holders of gold to turn it into the Treasury in exchange for paper currency under penalty of ten years imprisonment and $10,000 fine.”[1]

Certainly tracking purchases of precious metals would aid the government greatly if history repeats itself and confiscation again comes to America. When asked about why this is necessary, the police chief said, “I haven’t heard of any specific cases, but I don’t want to wait (until there is one.)”

This logic, if followed to it’s conclusion, would suggest that the police department and city government have a duty to track, scrutinize, license and tax any particular item for sale in order to protect from theft. Would it not be necessary to do this in order to aid in the recovery of any item of value owned by those within the city? Why should such an ordinance apply only to dealers in precious metals? Small items with high value such as iPods can be erased and sold already, some iPods worth more than their weight in silver.

The chief said his motivation is “protecting the people he serves.” Being able to recover “grandpa’s old watch” is essentially the goal he had in mind.

There was no statement from
him regarding the economic impact of this ordinance or how it might adversely affect customers of precious metals dealers, all but inevitable when government steps in to regulate and interfere.

After the proposed ordinance was presented by the chief, the public was allowed to speak for a short time on the ordinance. Six people spoke against the ordinance, among those were Wayne Hoffman, director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Paul Venable, recent Constitution Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor and yours truly, A.J. Ellis.

The ordinance was defeated with the suggestion by Nampa Mayor Tom Dale that if the council wants to accept the assistance offered by members of the public in drafting a reworked proposal that does more to protect privacy then they might revisit the issue and have another hearing.

I appreciate the chief’s good intentions in proposing this ordinance, but I would remind him of the timeless quote from C.S. Lewis,

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.’

Tyranny may seem like a strong word for this sort of seemingly lesser intrusion by government, but the intent of Lewis’ statement applies perfectly and holds true nonetheless.

This goes to show us that although we often set our eyes on the federal or state level in fighting government invasion, we can have a large impact at the local level by keeping ourselves informed and simply showing up and speaking up against such things. It was largely due to the public show of displeasure that this proposal was put down for the time being.

[1] Time Magazine, Oct. 9, 1933

Here’s what I had to say on the subject.

Mr. Mayor and councilmembers,
My name is A.J. Ellis, I live near Marsing and I regularly come to Nampa to do business. I’ve bought and sold a small number of silver coins in Nampa at two different sellers in the past year and have an interest in silver and gold as it applies to economics and money.

Here’s why I believe this proposal will be detrimental to Nampa businesses and customers.

A. This will be a burden to the coin dealers and will cost them money. The extra costs that this entails will cause prices to rise and consumers will chose other cities to do their business in. I personally will choose to purchase such things elsewhere.

B. Not only will this reduce business to coin and precious metals dealers, but those customers purchasing those products will take their business to other cities. Many customers try to save trips by doing all their business at one time. Those that wish to purchase those goods without interference will choose a more favorable seller in a more favorable city, thus you will see how economic actions, however small will have effects on the particular system’s economy as a whole.
It may cause the smaller and weaker dealers to go out of business, thus losing tax revenue for the city and adding to the overall economic hardship that continues to plague us.

C. What rightful business does the city have to track and manage such a benign product as precious metals? This seems draconian and I believe that this will add to the fears of some, reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s executive order 6102 in 1933, which (according to Time Magazine during that year)
“required holders of gold to turn it into the Treasury in exchange for paper currency under penalty of ten years imprisonment and $10,000 fine”

I certainly do not say this ordinance equals such a thing, but it does seem reasonable to say that the tracking of such goods could increase the probability of control in the future. Many consumers wish to maintain the privacy of their transactions, to which they have a right unless they cause harm to others.

I believe that laws pertaining to the trade and sale of stolen goods are sufficient, some of these businesses already record the information and driver’s license of walk-in sellers, and as silver and gold have the possibility to become more prominent because of national events and actions, I ask that the effects of this ordinance be looked at in terms of the whole economic effect on the city and that our first obligation is to “do no harm.”
Thank you.”

A.J. Ellis is a Christian libertarian writer in Idaho and writes the Musings From the Empire blog.

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