An Open Letter to the Locksmith Industry — T.F. Stern

By T.F. Stern,


June 21, 2011

Texas Department of Public Safety

Private Security Board

6100 Guadalupe, Building E
Criminal Law Enforcement Building
Austin, Texas 78752


Subject: Locksmith License Renewal Requirements

An Open Letter to the Locksmith Industry


Honorable John E. Chism, Honorable Howard H. Johnsen, Honorable Mark L. Smith,

Honorable Albert L. Black, Honorable Charles E. Crenshaw, Honorable Brian England,

Honorable Doris F. Washington


Hopefully you will appreciate the efforts within this correspondence, efforts to contain my contempt for most everything done by the DPS/PSB; well intentioned attempts to “safeguard” society from unscrupulous or improperly equipped locksmiths. In the past letters sent to the DPS/PSB have gone unanswered; almost as if the concerns of an individual locksmith had little if any importance or weight in formulating rules and regulations which govern the locksmith industry.

“Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own…the harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional ‘do-gooders,’ who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others.” (Henry Grady Weaver, The Mainspring of Human Progress pg 40-41)

My locksmith license (B12254) comes up for renewal in September, a license which is mandated by the State of Texas in order to do business in what used to be a free market system. Licensing will remain, water under the bridge; the legislature determined licenses were needed to safe guard the citizenry from unscrupulous or improperly equipped locksmiths. They left the nuts and bolts of how to implement that legislation to the DPS/PSB; the term for such transfers of power actually has a name, the Intelligible Principle .

According to a Supreme Court ruling made by Chief Justice John Marshall many years ago such shifting of authority is constitutional under certain guidelines which have become blurred to the point of irrelevance.

“Marshall explained: If Congress delegates quasi-legislative powers to another body, it must provide a “general provision” by which “those who act” can “fill up the details.” In other words, Congress cannot give an outside agency a free hand to make law, but it can authorize the agency to flesh out the particulars of a law Congress has already shaped.”


“Not surprisingly, with such open-ended authority, the power and discretion of agencies expanded rapidly. In recent years, the Court has refused to limit agency power whenever the statute is silent or ambiguous on delegation and the agency’s regulations are based on a “permissible” interpretation of the statute. In practice, the vast majority of regulations are now deemed permissible.”

This does not erase the issue of government having usurped authority in the Utopian desire to protect the general citizenry at the expense of individual constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not the purpose of government to sacrifice individual God given rights in the name of public safety; to do so turns individual citizens into subjects of the state.

Members of the DPS/PSB are charged with coming up with rules and regulations for the security industry. Locksmiths by virtue of carefully worded language are included; their every activity defined. Locksmiths were conscripted; forced to abandon what had been a free market system. Acknowledging duties which are assigned to the board, I must remind you all that government here in America answers to the people; not the other way around.

“Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?” (Frederic Bastiat, The Law, p.6) (emphasis added)

“Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government)

Benson added:

“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form?”

The State of Texas, or any other state in America has no powers except those granted by its citizenry; this is at the very heart of today’s correspondence with you, the DPS/PSB. You each have the responsibility to carefully consider the consequences of each and every rule or regulation imposed on individual members of the locksmith industry or the security industry as a whole.

According to the rules and regulations mandated by the DPS/PSB each licensed locksmith must re-qualify via continuing education credits in order to maintain the ability to work in his/her chosen field. By licensed locksmith I’m referring only to individuals who have already presented themselves before the State of Texas, provided sufficient proof of integrity or standing in the community, passed criminal background checks and have a track record of serving the public in a professional manner.

The rules are all encompassing and do not take into consideration a number of pertinent factors. These rules presume that all locksmiths are interested in addressing a wide range of security related fields or that each locksmith intends to move forward and expand upon his/her skills in order to stay current with changes in the industry. By writing mandates around such presumptive goals the DPS/PSB has marginalized a portion of legitimate locksmiths.

At one time I was a general purpose locksmith; involved in safe installation, putting in dead bolts, rekeying residential structures, master keying industrial structures and picking up automotive locksmith work too. Over the years I found I had little desire to work on anything other than automotive locks and refer customers to other qualified locksmiths when they desire work on anything other than automotive.

Does this in any way diminish my being a qualified locksmith? The answer is no; but when looking for continuing education credit courses the list is insulting at best. I can pay $150.00 to take an 8 hour “hands on” class offered by one of my competitors through the Greater Houston Locksmith Association where I’m a member in good standing. It would cost me one day of work in my own business. The State authorized instructor, Stacy Hetchler, is a great automotive locksmith; but it’s insulting for the State of Texas to have a journeyman locksmith take basic automotive classes simply to meet the mandates of the DPS/PSB.

I did notice some classes offered by Elite On Line services, “Automotive Key Generation – Ford Vehicles”, “Automotive Key Generation GM Vehicles (1- 8)” and “Tips and Tricks for Automotive Locksmithing (1 – 5)”. Here’s the course outline for the Ford class which would give me 2 credit hours to my now mandated 16 hours.

“This is the first in Elite CEU’s Automotive Key Generation series. This two hour video course focuses solely on Ford automobiles for the benefit of all technicians, salespeople, and managers within the security and low voltage industry, but is especially geared for those in the locksmith industry. By addressing the specifics of key and security issues with Ford vehicles we will cover valuable ways to becoming more proficient and profitable with the car locksmith and security business. Real-world examples will be demonstrated which will allow you to see firsthand the do’s and don’ts in how to deal with Ford vehicles.”

Pardon my saying so; but I’ve been an automotive locksmith specialist for the past 35 years and either I’ve learned it by now or never will. I make keys for a variety of cars; some which require transponder technology, others which might be considered antiques by today’s standards. I don’t wish to work on certain vehicles, either I didn’t invest in the expensive transponder program for that vehicle or otherwise have no inclination; those vehicles I refer to other qualified locksmiths. The State of Texas has no business dictating what avenues of locksmith work I need to “brush up on” or expand my level of proficiency, such issues are strictly between the locksmith and the customer.

There is no consideration in the rules and regulations for experience gained over a lifetime. It must be the assumption of the DPS/PSB that locksmiths have little if any ability to remember from year to year the tricks of the trade, all those tasks which he/she use on a daily basis. Why else would there be an all encompassing mandate for basic skills, continuing education courses which do nothing other than add to the cost of doing business.

An argument has been presented that “professional” locksmiths would want to constantly improve their skills in order to provide the highest level of service to the community; a fine suggestion, a repressive mandate. Do you on the board see the difference between a suggestion and a mandate?

In my particular business I carefully weigh the benefits of purchasing expensive automotive key program updates against the likelihood of getting my investment back. Why learn to work on a vehicle that you might see only once or twice a year?  On some cars the best answer is, “That’s a dealer only item”; which means I don’t know other locksmiths dumb enough to open that can of worms either.

The public has been offered an empty promise of “security” by virtue of locksmiths having a State issued license along with mandated continuing education; however it is reprehensible for the state to restrict legitimate business or free trade by imposing Lilliputian standards on an individual’s constitutional rights. It is one thing for a trade organization to impose minimum requirements for membership; yet another for the state to limit an individual’s ability to earn a living.

Not too long ago (about a year) the President of the Texas Locksmith Association stood before the board and suggested the DPS/PSB increase the number of mandatory continuing education credit hours from 8 to 16; that suggestion was turned into a mandate. I sent a letter to the board expressing my opinion; a letter which either never was read or not considered important enough to reply to.

I respect other locksmith’s desire to improve the public’s perception of the industry. If the President of the Texas Locksmith Association wishes to require additional standards for membership in that organization so be it; however, as an independent business owner/operator in the locksmith business his opinion is left at the door upon entering my business as is the State of Texas DPS/PSB. My skills and services are the sole concern of my customers; not my competitors and certainly not the State of Texas.

At the risk of being redundant, Ezra Taft Benson pin pointed the argument best:

“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form?”

The DPS/PSB does not have any inherent powers, only those powers which have been given the board by the citizenry. The DPS/PSB may not over ride individual inalienable rights through the “will of the people” as expressed by a majority or any appointed representative of a recognized professional organization, regardless of their numbers.

Simply put, if the President of the Texas Locksmith Association knocked on my door and demanded I start using Brand X, take a refresher course in master keying or began measuring the size of letters and numbers at my shop I’d laugh at him just prior to throwing him out into the gutter. He is free to run his locksmith business any way he likes or even require members in TLA to follow his guidelines; past that he has no authority or power.

In our carefully structured society, a society dependent on the rule of law and individual protections afforded under our constitutional government, individuals, not government agencies determine the daily conduct of commerce.

In closing I’ll leave you with one more quote from Bastiat, a more civilized string of words than I was tempted to address the DPS/PSB; but quite to the point.

“Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.” From Frederic Bastiat’s, “The Law.” We need more of his righteous indignation at the socialistic egotists who want to rule us all.”

T. F. Stern
T. F. Stern & Company
15707 Autumnbrook Drive
Houston, Texas 77068

The Moral Lib­eral asso­ciate edi­tor, T.F. Stern, is a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer, self-employed lock­smith, and gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since Jan­u­ary of 2005.
This will also appear as a feature article on Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America’s website.


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