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The Lockean Project

“Why businesses close”

Carmel Pine Cone – January 26, 2024

Recently I have considered the demise of local organizations which until recently I took for granted. Some are the “local hardware store” and “the paint place.” With the recent closure of M&S Building Supply and the sudden implosion of the Kelly Moore paint, there really isn’t a small hardware store in Monterey. You would need to go to one of the Ace shops in Pacific Grove for hardware, or Sherwin Williams in Monterey or Seaside for high-volume paint. The business closures do result in more businesses being driven to big-box alternatives. I believe that this is because of the “shifting of the goalposts” – the State is every year adding many new regulations and costs of doing business, and for small business owners it makes it difficult for them in California.

Another business type that I and many others took for granted is small or medium-sized FFLs – federal firearm licensees. Once they were plentiful in Monterey. Now, as of January 2024, there are exactly zero medium-size FFLs in Monterey selling or able to receive a transfer of firearms. The last one of reasonable or medium size in Monterey, Big 5, no longer sells firearms, as it did in prior years – it now merely sells BB guns, and ammunition for those who already own firearms.

The cause of this not only in Monterey but across California is, in part, surveillance legislation that was passed to require three years of storage of constant, twenty-four-hour monitoring of all customers, creating both great cost and liability for licensed business owners.

While this and other laws are being challenged in court, the businesses either close or simply stop doing what they are licensed by the federal government to do, because California’s laws have become too extreme.

Other local firearms businesses exist – a small federally licensed business in Monterey and a couple in Marina, but the Legislature’s desire seems to be to eventually leave people in the state with no legal options for transfers unless people move out of the state, or unless people locally want to drive to Turner’s in Salinas or a shop in Northern California.

But more and more of these licensed shops will continue to close, leaving law-abiding people with fewer options. The State continues to do what it does best—drive legitimate business away.

The City of Monterey has a proposal to take part in a system of automated license plate surveillance that would cover the city and would not only be arguably unconstitutional but would have negative impacts on business. People do not want to be surveilled wherever they go because the city, the State, or the Naval Postgraduate School thinks it’s an interesting idea. Persistent, broad-spectrum surveillance systems that are intended to capture everyone, in every setting, without regard to our rights or choices, are the byproduct of flawed minds, flawed designers, and people with minimal intelligence and no vision.

In 2022, the Hoover Institution provided a report showing several hundred businesses leaving California and moving their headquarters to a different state between 2018 and 2022. High rent, high taxes, high costs of living for employees, and red tape were a few of the reasons. But when a State Legislature is openly hostile to business in a state that once opened itself to businesses of all kinds, it should be clear why those business owners will either move or just retire.

Colin Gallagher, Monterey