In my ongoing consideration of the rise of the civilian gun training industry, my last two posts considered the possibility of the professionalization – or at least the semi-professionalism – of firearms instructors as an occupational group.
As the path of professionalization seems unlikely, at least in the short run, other ways of regulating or organizing the industry can be explored. Here I consider occupational licensing.
According to labor economist Morris Kleiner, “Occupational licensing is defined as a process where entry into an occupation requires the permission of the government, and the state requires some demonstration of a minimum degree of competency” (p. 191).
Universally licensed occupations include dentists, lawyers, barbers, and cosmetologists. “To work in these occupations,” Kleiner notes, “all persons must have a license” (p. 194). 
Over the same time that unionization has declined in the United States, occupational licensing has increased. In fact, today a much higher share of workers are affected by occupational licensing than unions or even the minimum wage (Kleiner, p. 190).
Occupational licensing is driven by the desire of the government, practitioners, and consumers (in varying degrees at different times for different occupations) “to ‘eliminate charlatans, incompetents or frauds’ and ‘protect the safety and welfare’ of consumers.”
To my knowledge, no local, state, or federal law requires a license to do business as a civilian firearms instructor.
To be licensed to cut my hair, Carlos Carvana of The Oval Office had to graduate from a 1,528 hour program at a North Carolina Board-approved barber school, pass an apprentice barber licensing exam, work for a year as an apprentice barber, pass a registered barber exam, and renew his license annually.
To teach a course in tactical defensive carbine for urban home use, an instructor only needs to put up a sign that says, to again quote Ken Campbell of Gunsite, “I are a firearms trainer.”
The one possible exception to occupational licensing requirements for firearms instructors is the case of state concealed carry permit instructors.
I do not have information for every state, but in Texas and North Carolina at least, anyone teaching the state mandated concealed carry course must be licensed by the state. Although both states call their process “certification,” being a concealed carry instructor in either state requires the person to receive state-sanction, which is the definition of licensing.
Licensing here is designed to ensure that every consumer who purchases (indeed, must purchase) the state-mandated concealed carry course from a licensed instructor receives a somewhat consistent (if not necessarily high quality) product.
That said, a more common pattern for regulating concealed carry instructors is to delegate responsibility for certification to “nationally recognized organizations,” particularly the National Rifle Association. As I have noted previously, following Jennifer Carlson, this is very interesting because the NRA is effectively acting as a quasi-regulatory agency governing concealed carry in the United States.
In the end, occupational licensing will never be a preferred option for the gun training industry in the United States. The libertarian bent within the gun culture often shows through in terms of dealing with the issue of quality in gun training. In a free market for these services, the cream will rise to the top and the dregs will sink to the bottom.
At the same time, as economists Marc Law and Sukkoo Kim observe, “The desire to eliminate charlatans and quacks from a given profession is more than mere rhetoric for both the practitioner and the consumer” (p. 728). This is especially true “when the consequences of poor purchases are great” (p. 727). 
Thus, options for regulating civilian firearms instructors that go beyond an entirely free market but fall short of mandatory licensing exist. In posts to follow I consider two of these: certification and apprenticeship.
 Morris M. Kleiner, “Occupational Licensing.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 14:4 (2000): 189–202.
 Marc T. Law and Sukkoo Kim, “Specialization and Regulation: The Rise of Professionals and the Emergence of Occupational Licensing Regulation.” The Journal of Economic History 65:3 (2005), p. 725.