Opinion: Holding individuals responsible for breaking state regulations

The issue of whether people should be held responsible for large gatherings that break state regulations has been in question since the start of the pandemic. Should people be fined or jailed for breaking these regulations? Should people be allowed to do as they wish? This is America after all.

On Mar. 19, 2020 Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order in the state of Kentucky prohibiting “all mass gatherings”. On June 29, this order was amended allowing gatherings of up to 50 people; however, on July 20 this order was amended again to allow groups of only 10 people or less.

To answer this question, I think you have to look at the issue from two standpoints: emotionally and logically.

Think about it. The United States is living through a pandemic right now. The national death toll is nearing 190,000.

In Kentucky, the governor has mandated that everyone wear masks while indoors, stay at least six feet apart from others and avoid gatherings larger than 10 people. Necessary precautions are being put in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

But so many people are breaking these guidelines. Even famous tennis star, Novak Djokovic, a five-time Wimbledon champion was seen partying at a nightclub after organizing his own tennis tournament in Serbia and Croatia.

If thousands of people are dying and the death toll is rising every day, why are people continuing to gather in large groups? This is a matter of life and death. Your actions could directly affect someone else’s life. By gathering into large groups, you could be engaging in a “super spreading” event (one person who is infected, infects countless others).

From an emotional standpoint, the answer to this question is clear. People gathering in large groups are directly putting other people’s lives at risk. How is it any different than endangering the welfare of a minor? The only difference being that these individuals usually are not minors. To prevent these gatherings, and ultimately save lives, people should absolutely be fined or jailed.

Looking at this situation from a purely emotional standpoint, I think it makes perfect sense. However, I do not think the answer is that simple. To form an educated opinion on this subject, you also have to look at the situation from a logical standpoint.

First and foremost, what does an executive order do? According to Cornell Law School, an executive order acts as a law. This means that people who break this law could receive the same punishment they might if they were to steal or shoplift. They could be fined or jailed.

So according to law, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has the absolute right to fine or jail people if they break regulations against large gatherings. Since Gov. Beshear has declared a state of emergency, this gives him authority to implement and execute such laws. The answer seems simple enough.

However, many people have questioned whether being jailed or fined for gathering in large groups is constitutional.

The White House has issued guidelines that “strongly recommend” people wear masks, stay six feet apart, and avoid gathering in groups larger than 10, but these are only guidelines. They are not laws. They are not required to be followed. There is no penalty for breaking the guidelines. During national and state emergencies, lines can start to blur on what laws are legal or not. At what point do national laws take precedence over state laws?

According to article six of the Constitution, state laws are to be followed until they conflict with federal laws. At that point, federal law takes precedence. So do the executive orders issued by Gov. Beshear interfere with our rights to life, liberty and property under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?

This is where the struggle brews as an American citizen.

If the laws imposed by Gov. Beshear conflict with our constitutional rights, then I believe federal law would take precedence. I believe that no one would be required to wear a mask or stay six feet apart. No one would be jailed or fined for not doing so. They would simply be guidelines that everyone would be encouraged to follow. And in a perfect world, I believe that everyone would. I know I would.

If laws imposed by Gov. Beshear do not conflict with our constitutional rights, then I believe they need to be followed. Everyone needs to wear a mask, stay six feet apart and avoid gathering in large groups. If people break these laws, they need to be punished according to the law.

I believe that as Americans we need to find balance. Yes, we have the right to live our lives as we choose. We have the right to freedom and happiness, but at the same time we have a duty to the people of this country to do our part. To keep everyone safe. To follow the guidelines.

I am on the side of the law. Right now, the law says I cannot gather in groups larger than 10. If I do so, I must wear a mask and stay at least six feet apart from others. Until changes are brought forth, I am going to continue to follow these laws, understanding the consequences if I do not.

But I also believe that if a law infringes on my freedoms, I have the right to do something about it.

This is a question we must all ask ourselves as Americans. Are our freedoms worth putting people’s lives in danger?

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