“Obey the Law whenever you know what it is.”

obey the lawThis is something a wise County Sheriff once told me.  I believe it was in reference to “concealed carry” rules in our county.  His point was that we all have an obligation to obey the law as we understand it.  There is an old saying, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” but that doesn’t always make sense.  Common sense is what I call “natural law.”  That is the simple rule that is expressed more famously by the statement, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  That’s what a good person should ordinarily do in absence of any formalized rules and regulations that are vigorously enforced by some agency of the law.

The trouble is, even that good person will often act in his or her own best interests in the absence of rule enforcement.  The most common example I can think of is what I observe in four out of five instances every single day, everywhere I drive in the South.  That is not stopping for a STOP sign before making a right turn, and sometimes at a red light if there is no traffic.  The standard for making a legal stop is what we used to call a “foot-down stop,” which is what a motorcyclist is supposed to do when stopping.  Not just stopping cold, then taking off again, but stopping and putting both feet on the ground to steady the bike and keep it from falling over.  So a policeman stops such a person running that STOP sign and they say, “But officer, I DID stop!”  Well, no, it was more of a yield in most cases.  And that’s the law…STOP means STOP.

So we have local, state and federal rules, regulations and laws.  Federal law says that smoking marijuana is wrong.  Colorado state law says it is OK.  Which law to obey?  Who made those laws?  Federal law says that illegal immigrants, especially those who have committed crimes, must be held in detention until such time as a determination is made as to what to do with them.  At the same time, a “sanctuary city” such as San Francisco, may release that person back into the general population to do goodness-knows-what again without consequences.

What we have here is a failure of character.  In the STOP sign instance, it is a failure of personal character…it is a form of greed, in that “what I need right now is more important than the law, and I know I’m breaking it, but there’s no harm.”  In the case of the illegal who was caught committing a crime, the character flaw is broader and more flagrant…”We don’t like the law, we don’t like your politics, and we are going to disregard that law no matter who it harms…so just stick it where the sun don’t shine!”

I’m going to let some of my co-founders discuss in more detail why we have laws and what the rights and responsibilities of our three branches of government are in relationship to each other.

In the meanwhile…STOP at the stop sign, please!  While you’re at it, think about that speed limit, too.  Does 55 mean 55-60, or does it mean “eight is great, but nine, you’re mine,” as my eldest son used to say to me before he lost his driver’s license.

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About William Hooper

I was an American lawyer, politician, and a member of the Continental Congress representing North Carolina from 1774 through 1777. I signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence, along with fellow North Carolinians Joseph Hewes and John Penn.
This entry was posted in Crime & Public Safety, U.S. Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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