A Regulated Cottage Industry

One of the thing that’s unique about the Firearms Industry is that it’s one of the few heavily regulated industries that’s made up almost exclusively of small businesses. It is, in effect, a cottage industry. This is a sharp contrast to many other regulated fields, where you only have fairly significant and large players dealing with their regulatory body. In Pharmaceuticals, which is the regulated industry I work in, smaller biotech companies feed ideas and products to “big pharm.” who are generally the regulatory and marketing arms of the industry. The reason being is that small companies don’t really have the resources to comply with the regulatory requirements, and don’t typically have the relationships with their regulator that the big guys do. In Pharmaceuticals, regulatory compliance is very time consuming and costly, which puts it out of the reach of most small businesses.

One reason I think we see a lot of things like this and like this in the firearms industry is that you’re dealing with smaller players who don’t have the money to hire full time legal staff, or maintain staff that deal specifically with ensuring regulatory compliance. In the end that becomes everyone’s job, and if you think about the kind of people you work with, some people are obviously going to be up to the task, and others aren’t. Firearms certainly aren’t the only regulated cottage industry, but I suspect if you look at the other examples, you’ll find a lot of similar stories. Fishing is another such industry, and it’s not all that rare to hear of cases of people being prosecuted for, say, importing lobsters in the wrong bag.

In cases where the federal government is regulating small business, the regulations need to be clear, and easy to comply with. Especially when violation can come attached with criminal charges. We still have a lot of work to do in this area, and not just on guns.

9 thoughts on “A Regulated Cottage Industry”

  1. being somebody who worked in the commercial fishing industry for a number of years I can personally attest to the paranoia exhibited by fishermen. Also given that NMFS and the Marine Patrol are run at the same varying and procecutorial standards as the BATFE, it was very easy to be checked out by one agent and be found to be OK, then the next day be prosecuted for a violation the very next because the next agent had a backwards way of measuring or interpreting the law. I’ve seen people loose a month or more’s pay simply because the knots in a fishing net have changed because of weather conditions, or because a different person weighed or measured a fish.

    Because my paychecks were signed by the government I took a bunch of flack when I’d make my scientific measurements for fear that a mistake made by me might cost them their paychecks, or worse their livelihood.

    And of course I saw my collected date get cherry-picked or massaged in the same way that the global warming types have to create a problem that doesn’t exist for the sake of budget increases, or extension of grants.

    I’m glad I don’t do that dirty work anymore.

  2. Why not organize themselves into a sort of collective for the purposes of legal representation? Doesn’t have to be a pure collective (with free riding and other stupid stuff), could be some sort of firearms industry legal foundation that provides insurance against ATF mishaps. Clients would pay premiums in return for help mitigating the legal risks of operating a gun company. Such an organization (ie a legal foundation with extensive firearms regulatory experience) would be well suited to evaluating risk in firearms companies, helping such companies avoid legal risk and then rescuing them if the ATF discovers some new way to fuck them over.

    NSSF and NRA-PVF already provide lots of lobbying muscle, but there shouldn’t be any reason that they can’t achieve similar economies of scale in the administrative law context.

  3. There are firms that do compliance training, but small businesses do not avail themselves of it. I went through it, and I was the small fry in the class. Most everyone else was from ATK, General Dynamics, BAE, Cerberus, etc. I guess the small shops figure the cost is not worth the return.

  4. Well, if you’re regulating a complex industry that gets more difficult. Few people will ever understand FDA’s regulations in their entirety, but we can afford lawyers, compliance experts, and teams of people who only deal with regulatory compliance.

  5. Look at the number of people who make their living off of 21 CFR 11…

    (Have you stopped twitching when you hear that yet?)

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