Ignorance of the law is no excuse?

As usual, sponsors of each of the 180 new Nevada state laws that go into effect Monday can plead good intentions. Some of the enactments may even do some good.

But the biggest problem is not with the individual statutes. The biggest problem is that we now have 180 more of them, added to a shelf of law books already weighty enough to give a grown man a hernia.

They say ignorance of the law is no excuse. But who can possibly read and remember all this stuff? It’s a safe bet the busy beavers of Carson City haven’t spent much time of late with Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, who warned, “The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws.” Or reading Winston Churchill, who said, “If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.” Or even visiting with Albert Einstein, who noted, “Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.”

One new Nevada law taking effect this week will honor the concealed weapons permits of eight other states, mostly in the West, when holders of those permits visit Nevada. Since this merely trims back an existing government infringement of a natural, civil and constitutional right, that’s good as far as it goes — especially if those states reciprocate for visiting Nevadans.

The efforts of Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, to improve access to government records had a difficult path through the Legislature, getting chewed up a bit en route.

But the result will at least require government agencies to make public records available for review or copying within five business days after a citizen makes a request. That’s an improvement.

Another new law requires pharmacies to post on a Web site what they charge for commonly prescribed drugs so consumers can compare prices — a fine goal, though it’s still a new unfunded state mandate.

So far so good. But lawmakers show an almost childlike inability to believe that unintended consequences could ever result from their empowering armed officers to brace citizens for, say, carrying around a can of spray paint (defined as a “graffiti implement” in a new edict sponsored by fireman and Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas); for making improper use of video phones to capture images of person’s “private parts” in places where the subject has an expectation of privacy (an unsavory stunt now defined as the crime of “video voyeurism” thanks to Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas); or even for aiming a laser pointer with the intent of interfering with the operation of an aircraft (courtesy of Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, who seems to have missed the operation of freight trains and hang-gliders, though there’s always next year.)

And thanks to Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, police, firefighters and other authorities are now authorized to break into locked cars to free dogs and cats suffering from extreme heat or cold. Hard to find an opponent for that.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, even gives us an edict that bars lenders from charging excessive interest rates, with the government (of course) deciding what “excessive” is, and even offering new protections for “military personnel who are victimized by high-interest lenders.”

Dragged out of the barracks in the middle of the night and forced to sign those notes, were they? And will state authorities now immediately get to work checking out the size of those IRS fines, levies and “doubling penalties”?

“I think there is a lot of consumer protection on all different levels,” explains Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas. “These are measures that will help people’s lives in everyday ways.”

But where will Ms. Titus be the first time a citizen fed up with such micromanagement of our lives gets into a violent confrontation with an enforcement officer? Then it will all be “his own fault, for not complying,” won’t it?

All these laws require more bureaucrats to enforce them, of course, and higher taxes to get the job done, bringing to mind another piece of advice from the late Mr. Churchill, that, “For a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

What is required to reverse this trend is a constitutional amendment, requiring lawmakers to repeal two old laws in order to make room for each new one. Where do we go to sign that petition?

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