October 22, 2014

OUR VIEW: America long on laws, short on common sense

It’s no wonder many Americans feel like they’re under attack by the government. As a recent Wall Street Journal article points out, we are – in a way.
It’s a creeping attack that is putting Americans in jail – or at least in legal peril – for what at one point would’ve been considered simple mistakes.
According to the Journal article, there were fewer than 20 federal crimes in 1790. Today there are an estimated 4,500 in addition to thousands of additional regulations.
In one instance, an Alaskan man was arrested for selling sea otters. As a coastal Native Alaskan, Wade Martin is allowed to trap and hunt the species, but under the law, the hides can only be sold to other Native Alaskans.
Martin admitted he sold the animals, because he didn’t know it was illegal. He ended up with two years probation and a $1,000 fine. Not knowing that it was illegal, didn’t absolve him of responsibility.
Martin was lucky. Others end up in jail. Take, for instance, Dane A. Yirkosvsky, an Iowa man. With his previous criminal record, Yirkovsky wasn’t allowed to own a gun. But when he found a bullet beneath a carpet while working as a drywall installer, he thought nothing of putting it in a box in his room.
Police found the bullet while searching his apartment, and he was charged with a federal law prohibiting felons from owning firearms. He’s serving a two-year jail stint.
The Wall Street Journal’s research revealed that as the number of federal crimes has increased, so too has the number of people in prison.
In this day and age, while prisons are overcrowded and government budgets are pressed to their limits, it makes no sense to imprison or even put people through the justice system for crimes that in a rational world wouldn’t be considered such.
There was a time when most Americans had great faith in our justice system. Of course, there was also a time when most Americans had great faith in our legislators. It appears that faith may have been misplaced. Legislators made silly laws and the justice system enforces them.
Our system today is long on laws and short on common sense.

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