Oklahoma legislators seek to pass a new bill that would require those selling copper to first obtain a license. This comes in the aftermath of a massive theft problem in Oklahoma County, in which copper is stolen from infrastructure such as highways and light fixtures and then sold to scrap yards, costing multiple thousands of dollars.
Representative Merleyn Bell introduced the bill, claiming that the theft costs the state large amounts of money in repairs. “With the Oklahoma Department of Transportation reporting costs to replace copper wire for highway lighting along one section of I-40 estimated at upwards of $700,000,” Rep. Bell said.
Bell also wants to increase the state fine for selling burnt copper wiring from $2,500 to $5,000 on the first offense. The bill is intended for middlemen distributors who buy stolen copper from thieves and then sell it to legitimate dealers.
Let’s look at this effort to pass a law from a principled approach.
First, obtaining a license from a government body does NOT stop crime from being committed. In this case, it’s common that an insincere middleman would turn a blind eye to a seller who appears to be selling stolen copper. When money is involved—i.e. when a distributor is trying to earn a living through buying and reselling products—profits equal food on the table and shelter overhead. The last thing he cares about is legislation.
Another government program aimed at stopping what otherwise immoral people always do does nothing except make life harder on the rest of us who do obey the law. Licensure is absolutely meaningless in its effectiveness to cause behavioral change. It only adds fees, restrictions, and time loss due to the hassles of complying with such menacing laws.
Second, criminals will do what they want regardless of what the law says—because they are criminals. Of course I don’t condone such actions, but I’m just stating the obvious. Increasing the fine for stolen copper is another matter, but making law-abiding citizens jump through hoops every time they want to start selling something in a free market economy just puts a wrench in the process.
Don’t Steal Copper
Copper is an item that is renown for having been stolen in time memorial. It doesn’t make it right. It’s still wrong—it’s theft, and we of the copper investment, industrial and scrap community should do everything in our power to stop it.
However, there are things that work and things that don’t. Passing another law to try and prevent criminals from doing what their devious minds are fixated to do will result in nothing but further complications upon the rest of us.