Safety, Liberty and COVID-19
by Sheriff Richard Mack (Ret)
This past weekend my oldest son and his family took my wife and me to Disneyland. We spent Thursday and Friday there. Our last day at the “Happiest Place on Earth” was supposed to be Saturday, but Disneyland closed for only the third time since it opened in 1955. (The other two shutdowns were the JFK assassination and the 9-11 attacks.) My first visit there was 1959. I got lost and my FBI father found me on Dumbo. I loved it! And now, I still really love going to Disneyland, especially with my grandchildren. My wife and I have very fond, heartwarming memories of Disneyland trips with our children. This recent trip was no exception. The two days we were there were priceless, but the thing we will remember most is Saturday morning, staring at the chained gates with Disneyland looking like a ghost town. It was a sad, sad picture. 

On our drive home back to Phoenix we stopped for gas at a local Chevron. My wife needed to use the restroom, so I went in to ask for the key. The clerk told me that their bathroom was closed to the public due to the dangers of the Corona-virus. I asked, “Where are paying customers to go for relief, the back alley?” He said he didn't know, but we had to go somewhere else. Burger King was open and so was the bathroom.

CBS 5 News at Noon reported yesterday that over 79,000 people who had contracted COVID-19 have recovered. One such survivor, Elizabeth Snider, (Seattle) said, “things will get better, life will go on.” The CSPOA agrees with Ms. Snider and we thank her for her optimism and her most unique perspective.

The CSPOA would urge everyone to be mindful in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. Getting through this pandemic in a conscientious way is going to require a cooperative effort of people who care for each other. We highly recommend helping to slow the spread of the disease by avoiding unnecessary physical contact, and by using a pocket hand sanitizer, washing your hands and taking lots of Vitamin C and Vitamin D to help build your body's defenses. My wife and I use all three of these products daily. Conversely, we certainly caution everyone not to sacrifice Liberty for threats against our health or safety. All of us are familiar with Franklin's warning, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Would not our First Amendment right to Peaceably Assemble be an “essential Liberty?” 

Many public places and events have shut down in the face of Corona-virus fears. But what we don't want is the Constitution to be shut down amid the hysteria and panic. We don't outlaw known killers such as cars, or alcohol, or ice cream, or even smoking. We sure don't shut down Baseball even though people drive there in cars and eat ice cream and drink beer inside! (And smoke in designated areas.) And as dangerous as COVID -19 might be, our government does not have the authority or jurisdiction to shut down restaurants, theaters, bars, churches, or our weekend poker games. They can ask, persuade, educate and beg, but they cannot force any such attempts. And NO, they cannot pass laws to force us to comply.

San Francisco is actually trying to enforce outdoor walking rules that “allow” citizens to walk their dogs, but requiring that they stay 6 feet away from any other person at all times! 

In an address to the public today, the mayor of Chicago announced that if you are sick or even think you might be sick, you are ORDERED to stay home or there will be “consequences.”  The city of Chigago is threatening to arrest people for maybe being sick in public! And then what will they do? Put you in a jail cell to infect others?

The true Peace Officers of this country – the sworn guardians of the Constitution – are duty-bound to prevent such tyranny. Erecting such “barriers” is exactly what Madison taught us to do. Justice Scalia reiterated this point in the Mack/Printz SCOTUS ruling protecting the autonomy of sheriffs. He said, “But the Constitution protects us from our own best intentions.” Which means precisely that we should be protected from the whims of our leaders as they “protect us,” all for our own good, of course. Scalia added, “Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” (Federalist 51, at 323) 

“In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion, and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance.” (Jefferson) Thus, the crisis of the day does not nullify our Constitution or our individual liberty, nor does such a crisis grant totalitarian authority to anyone. There will be endless crises in the world, but there is only one liberty, and once lost it is near impossible to retrieve. 

Yet supposedly well-meaning politicians are really taking advantage of this situation to promote their own selfish agendas by audaciously suspending gun ownership and gun purchases. You know the old adage: Never let a good crisis go to waste! Of course their rationale is that nobody is going to stand up for gun rights when there is a perceived threat of increased looting. Nobody is going to oppose higher taxes and more Federal control during a global health crisis. Nobody is going to stand up for the right to peaceably assemble during a virus outbreak. It's just bad optics. But the principles do not (and cannot) change with the circumstances.

“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

Government doing anything to us or for us because it's “for our own good” is a notion far scarier than all the horrible diseases in the world. Reason and persuasion are the rules of the day. We may shut down Disneyland or deny travelers the use of a much-needed restroom, or even close Baseball, but let us never sacrifice our liberties for the latest war, to fight terrorism, to stop Ebola or COVID-19, to combat poverty, or for any other cause which may appear noble. Through it all, we must stay true to each other, true to our country, and true to the liberties that made us the greatest nation in world history. 

Therefore, the CSPOA stands for caution on both sides. Let us be careful and follow some common-sense prevention tactics. Let us serve and protect one another while we fervently uphold and defend our American ideals, the crisis of the day notwithstanding.

May God bless us as we weather this storm together.