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Constitution not relevant to personal safety

Jeffrey S. Ryan, Breckenridge

RE: My safety is my right (Daily Mail, April 17)Morgan Liddick raises, and promptly confuses, a number of constitutional issues in his letter questioning the right of governments to legislate for public (or, in his view, individual) safety.While he cites Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, he seems oblivious to the fact that motorcycle helmet laws and automobile seat-belt laws have nothing to do with the purposes and limitations of the federal constitution. Such laws are passed by state legislatures, pursuant to their powers under their state consitutions. The United States Constitution is largely irrelevant to Mr. Liddick’s argument. That Constitution was established to provide the powers allowed the federal government. It did not abolish state sovereignty, nor did it eliminate the inherent police powers that every state has. The states have always had the power to regulate certain behaviors, as long as such regulation did not abridge a federally protected right.Many states have determined that seat-belt and helmet laws are desirable to protect the welfare of its citizens. It cannot be credibly argued that the practices of not wearing a seat belt or a helmet, practices that can increase the cost of police protection and health care costs, do not have an impact on the citizenry at large. Laws prohibiting such practices are precisely the exercise of state police powers that both Madison and Jefferson took for granted. (I would also suggest that Mr. Liddick research the case law pertaining to the 9th and 10th amendments to the Federal constitution, which he cites to support his argument. He will find little support there.)I am neither advocating nor opposing the laws in question. The point is only that these laws are of peculiarly state, not federal, concern.Finally, I am rather disturbed to read Liddick’s statement that by allowing such laws, “we place government at the service of the ever-changing discoveries of science, and of fashion.” Placing “science” and “fashion” on equal footing is novel, to say the least. But to fear the influence of new discoveries of science on the conduct of government is bizarre. Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates will no doubt silently applaud Mr. Liddick’s position.Write to usSend letters to the editor to letters@summitdaily.com. All letters must be submitted along with the author’s name, hometown and phone number.


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