Legality of requiring-denying licensing

This issue comes up a lot in reference to gun control laws, but my question isn’t specifically gun related. Laws where something is technically legal with a license, only the government refuses to issue licenses. Have any court rulings ever addressed the general validity of this tactic?

What specific instances are you referring to? I’ve heard of state’s rescinding licenses to practice medicine, or teach, but these instances usually followed the formerly licensed individual being convicted of a crime.

In the interests of fairness, I’ve not paid much attention to instances of gun dealers having their licenses revoked, so I wouldn’t be able to remark on that, anyway.

Wasn’t the marijuana law of the 30s something like this. When they said you had to have a license then refused to issue any. Then in the 60s it was overruled.

I’m not sure this is right but it may be related to what the OP is thinking of

Not at all familiar with the marijuana laws you’re referring to. Was there some sort of license that was supposed to be required? To what? Grow it? Possess it? I seem to recall local states requiring that dealers buy some sort of certificate and if they didn’t have it, they got nicked for possession as well as lacking the certificate, but I don’t think it was necesarily a license, per se.

Or, as you say, the OP may be referring to something else entirely, in which case, never mind.

The OP sounds more GQ-ish, but with rich fodder for GD.

Firearms licenses (some are to simply possess firearms, some specifically just for handguns, some for things like concealed carry) typically fall into two broad categories: “Shall Issue” or “May Issue.”

Both have in common a set of guidelines/criteria that an applicant must meet to obtain the license. These may be criteria such as background info, proof of training, proof of insurance, “admin/processing fees,” some form of proficiency testing, and so on.

Where they diverge is this: “May Issue” licences grant the issuing agent/agency the authority to deny/withold a license even if all stated criteria have been met.

A “Shall Issue” license grants the issuing agent/agency no such authority; if an applicant meets the criteria, a license must be issued.

To my (admittedly limited, IANAL) knowledge, no firearms licensing laws have been challenged on these grounds.

Here’s a link to the stamps… I guess even though they’re not “Legal” they’re still made as collector items. I don’t know… Someone with more knowledge will probably come in on that one.

It was based upon the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914.

This led to the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act (their spelling) which was found to be unconstitutional with Leary v. United States in 1969 because of self incrimination while applying for the stamp.

IIRC the 1937 act was based upon the law from the prohibition era that tried to make machine guns harder to get ahold of. To own one you had to have a stamp. If you didn’t have a stamp it was illegal and carried a tough penalty. The government just didn’t print any stamps.

I just can’t find a link to the last part for some reason, someone correct me if I’m wrong.

I think this is the part that makes any rational person head explode…but thats just me…

Well…the larger part of me agrees with you. But there’s the little niggling voice in the back of my mind that says maybe, just maybe, it’s not an entirely bad idea to have one last backstop to keep certain people from obtaining firearms.

As in, “He was kinda wild-eyed, and just, you know, ‘off kilter.’ If you showed me a picture of him before he killed 27 people at the food court at the mall, I would’ve guessed he was the kind who’d just go crazy and kill a bunch of people. I really wished I could’ve denied his license, but we’re a “shall-issue” state, and there was nothing I could do.”

I mean, it’s not like gun dealers have a whole lot of incentive to not sell a gun.

Unfortunately, that “backstop” has been co-opted by people/pols with agendas, and basically ruined it for me. I just don’t trust licensing schemes wrt firearms, even if, in the abstract, I recognize their potential utility.

I wasn’t referring to the revokation or denial of license for cause, but the tactic of simply refusing to ever issue the required license, amounting to a defacto ban. For an example, the city of Chicago requires handguns to be registered, but closed the registry to all guns not already owned before a certain date. So there’s no way to legally acquire a handgun in Chicago. And as mentioned in the discussion of Federal laws wrt narcotics and guns, it seems to be a favored tactic when there’s doubt that the government in question has the authority to outright ban something; they just make it effectively impossible to have it legally. Not surprisingly, many people regard this as a sophistry (“weasely trick”), and so I was wondering if there were any judicial precedents regarding this tactic.

While I’m sure this is true in a lot of instances, FWIW the local gun store I go to has huge signs warning that they do not tolerate “straw buyers” and will gladly report same to the police.

I’ll give the store owner/gun dealer the benefit of the doubt and assume they mean what they say, but such signage could also simply be legal camouflage.

I mean, how can you tell who a straw purchaser is, really? By definition, the “purchaser” in a straw exchange is someone capable of making lawful purchases, with the intent of then turning around and selling the firearm to someone who isn’t.

And there’s not a whole lot of “tracking” going on of firearm purchases (the stated impetus behind some of the “One Gun A Month” proposals, as well as proposals to allow the use of the NICS database by LEAs to track firearm purchases), unless the dealer is doing it, to figure out who the “Strawman” is in such an exchange.

As far as the OP goes, New York (state and city) is another example of requiring licenses, and then being at best “extremely reluctant” to issue such licenses. Unless you are one of the “right people,” of course.

I know that this is what the History Channel said, but it is simply not true. The feds to this day will issue you a tax stamp to own a transferrable machine gun for $200.

Thorough background check, but if you are otherwise eligible to own a firearm, they will give you the stamp. I don’t know where the HC got the idea that the government “didn’t print any machine gun stamps”.

My understanding is that, in 1934 when the National Firearms Act was passed, $200 was six months wages for your average person, and a Thompson M1928 SMG cost about $200 at the time. (They weren’t cheap!)

So, with the advent of the Transfer Fee, the cost of a Tommy Gun doubled to $400- an entire year’s wages. (Various currency value converters tell me that $400 in 1934 is equivalent to about $5,000 now, without adjusting for inflation. If you account for inflation, I think it’s probably closer to $25,000 in today’s money)

So, the short answer is that it’s not that the Government wasn’t issuing the Tax Stamps, it’s that so few people could actually afford one in the first place- at least, at the time. If you had the money and lived in a state where full-auto weapons ownership was legal and were otherwise eligible to own the gun, then you could have the Stamp (and your machine-gun). But not that many people had a spare six month’s wages lying around with with to pay taxes to enable them to own a Tommy Gun or a BAR or a Schnellfeuer C96.

The interesting thing is that the dollar value cost of the Stamp was not subsequently increased to keep in line with inflation, and so you have today’s situation where the $200 Stamp cost is a trivial component of the cost of legally acquiring a machine-gun. The cheapest legally available SMGs I’m aware of in the US are MAC-10s, which start from around $5,000 and go up from there (A law was passed in 1986 prohibiting the transfer of automatic weapons made after that date, so as a result there’s a finite supply of MGs and SMGs in the US and they’re not getting any cheaper).

Semi-auto weapons in the US aren’t subject to the same restrictions, though- Auto-Ordnance make semi-auto only versions of the M1928A1 and M1 Thompson SMGs which are legal to own in most US States, and you can also things like Semi-Auto Only FN-FALs (L1A1 SLRs), AK-47s, AR-15s, MP5 SMGs, Steyr AUGs, and so on, which are outwardly identical (indistinguishable, in many cases) from a select-fire weapon, but are only capable of semi-automatic fire.

This causes a lot of confusion amongst The General Public, who can’t differentiate between an actual, select fire Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK-47) and one of the countless Semi-Auto Only knockoffs produced by various countries for export and sale to the US on the civilian market, and leads to the general fear of “Black Guns” (Military-Style Semi-Automatic rifles, so nicknamed because many of the guns look like this)

How reasonable the general public’s fear of MSSAs actually is would be a better topic for a different thread, I think.

So essentially, the question is in regards guns primarily? Because the marijuana stamps are still, as best I know, something that some states still require to be purchased. As you say, weasely as all hell, but it’s still a state law. I didn’t know about the Chicago handgun registry. I used to have a handgun registration that was issued to my great-great Uncle in the early sixties from Chicago. I’ll hafta look and see if I still have it. 'Twould be an interesting artifact if I can find it, I guess.

Do these sorts of licenses really exist for anything besides marijuana and guns (I’m guessing primarily handguns)? If so, what other items fall under this peculiar regulation?