Whatever happened to constitutional rights?

By Barbara Simpson

As our world swirls around us in the midst of a pandemic that literally is threatening the planet, we are seeing what panic does to politicians who have the power to control our lives.

While the medical community struggles to find a treatment and a vaccine for the new and mysterious coronavirus, and while reported cases increase as does the death toll, politicians are caught in the middle.

They want to DO something to make a difference, but they also want to cover their decisions as elections loom. Their future and the future of their party may be a stake.

As president, Donald Trump is in the news spotlight – but since media have an across-the-board hatred of him, everything he says is questioned, and, in fact, it appears media believe he is responsible for the contagion.

That, of course, is nonsense, but it doesn’t stop the hatred spewed on the airwaves.

But the president isn’t the only politician putting himself on the political line – governors and mayors in the states hard hit by the virus are also in the spotlight. For some of them, it was a jump into an arena that raises questions about violations of constitutional rights.

For Californians, the decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom involved him putting all 40 million citizens under a virtual lockup. People are restricted to their homes, virtually locked up, with strict rules about when they can go out and where. A violation of these rules is a misdemeanor and could mean arrest and/or fines.

Families were hard hit because all schools were closed and will not reopen this school year.

All gatherings of people were restricted, and that even includes family get-togethers in private homes.

Restrictions were put on businesses, with the state saying which can remain open and which can’t. Groceries, take-out food, pharmacies, hardware stores, gas stations and financial institutions can be open; all else must close. Thousands of people are suddenly without a job.

Talk about a suspension of civil rights!

It’s interesting when it comes to medical care. I have gotten a notice from my family dentist that she will see patients only for an emergency. Another dentist specialist has shut his practice for the time being and canceled current appointments.

Then, there is my family physician – a man I have seen for more than 10 years. I called his office last Friday with a question and got the answering service – and was told they “were closed until further notice.”

I tried again on Monday and got the same message. I asked if they left any referral information for current patients – I was told “No.”

To say I am furious is an understatement. At this point, there is nothing I can do, but I am not through with this. Thank goodness, I don’t have a medical emergency, but in a time of an out of control virus, not to have access to a family physician is infuriating and just wrong.

For New Yorkers, the decision by Gov. Cuomo has caused similar problems for all citizens. He closed all “non-essential” businesses, but Planned parenthood remains open.

One of the results of these political decisions is that a number of governors and mayors have decided that gun stores are NOT essential businesses and that they must close. Connecticut and Illinois are considering such a move, as is Virginia. The mayor of Champagne, Illinois, signed an executive order giving her the authority to ban guns, ammunition, alcohol and gasoline.

Back to California, Newsom’s order regarding “essential” businesses left questions as to whether gun stores could/would remain open. People lined up at many of them as they decided they wanted weapons and ammunition for self-defense at this time of stress.

Initially, it was decided those stores had to close, but then things changed. The governor decided that decision would be left to each of the 58 counties in the state.

In Los Angeles, Sheriff Alex Villanueva decided that gun stores are non-essential and ordered his deputies to be certain all were shut down.

But then, last Tuesday, Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham issued a written opinion stating that gun stores are essential.

The bottom-line issue is the infringement of civil rights under the Constitution.

In Northern California, in San Jose, a number of gun stores remained open, and several closed. The solution to the dilemma has not been resolved, but the bottom-line issue is that people who see the panic over toilet paper are concerned as to what would happen if people decide to break into private homes for supplies.

To add fuel to that fire is the fact that jurisdictions are releasing prisoners from county and city jails – with the idea of keeping those people safe from the coronavirus. Of course, the idea that those criminals will be out on the street does not sit well with good citizens – and they want protection. New York City has released more than 400 prisoners, and some 1,700 prisoners have been released from Los Angeles jails. There already has been a case of a released prisoner who attacked a woman in her home and nearly killed her.

Restricting the people’s access to firearms is a violation of the Second Amendment – our right to keep and bear arms – and this must not be allowed.

No government has the right to tell us we cannot protect ourselves.

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