The California legislature has just passed two similar bills, intended to deal with the problem of street criminals stealing auto converters, air conditioner coils, and church roofs, and such, to sell as scrap metal. The only opposition to these bills is the ACLU, which objects to the requirement that sellers of scrap show government IDs, and provide a thumb print.
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The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article in the Recycling Today on 2 September, 2008. It is an unusual source to raise a constitutional issue, yet it is there. This national publication of the recycling industry concerns two, nearly identical laws, which have just passed the California Assembly, concerning people who handle scrap materials, and information they will be required to obtain from sellers, including a government issued ID and a thumb print.
The problem presented is the increasing instances of low-level criminals stealing copper and other valuable metals from places that are exposed and not normally protected by either public or private security. Examples include catalytic converters on private cars, copper coils in outdoor air conditioning units, and copper church roofs and downspouts, for example.
Nearly identical laws passed both the California Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly, and are expected to be reconciled and sent to the Governor for his expected signature. These laws were supported by a coalition of groups, including the California Farm Bureau, utility companies, recyclers, law enforcement, various water districts, cities, and others.
The Assembly bill is stronger than the Senate bill. The Assembly version requires buyers of scrap materials to obtain and preserve photos of the sellers, and of the materials being sold. The sole, organized opponent of these bills was the ACLU of California.
The reasons given for the ACLU’s opposition were requirements on recyclers to obtain government ID and proof of residency and a thumb print of the sellers of the specified copper and other metals, before purchasing such materials.
The problem is that individuals can roam the streets looking for targets of opportunity, and commit tens of thousands of dollars in damages to homeowners and institutions and their insurance companies, to make a few hundred dollars in quick money. The requirements placed on buyers of materials are similar to requirements long in place with regard to people who pawn various possessions in pawn shops.
From a practical standpoint, these laws should vastly decrease random destruction by petty criminals, in jurisdictions across America, not just in California. Apparently, this law goes against two standing policies of the ACLU. One is to make it as difficult as possible to identify and convict criminals. The other is to keep the US economy open to all illegal aliens who are in the country.
In short, common sense has reared its ugly head in the California legislature, and the ACLU has come out against it. This is, of course, a national problem, as the market value of certain metals has risen, and the need for recycling of such materials has risen as a result.
Source for original story on the Net: