Sam Hanna Jr.

One would like to think our governor and state attorney general have more important things to do than engage in a tit-for-tat over wearing a mask to thwart the COVID-19 virus.

Obviously that’s not the case.

Over the past week and beyond Gov. Bel Edwards and state Attorney General Jeff Landry have been at each other’s throats over Edwards’ mandate that all Louisianians over the age of eight wear a mask when they visit public buildings or private businesses. You may have noticed in your day-to-day forays about town that many people, it seems, are wearing a mask. You may have even observed someone driving down the road in an automobile — alone — wearing a mask, not to mention the occasional poor soul walking down a city street in 90-plus degree heat wearing a mask as well. Go figure.

Yet, Landry apparently felt it was his legal duty to spit out a lengthy letter in which he suggested Edwards’ executive order mandating the wearing of masks was “constitutionally unenforceable,” but Landry, who has battled the COVID-19 virus himself, explained he was not recommending people not wear masks. He simply asserted Edwards’ mandate was possibly not on constitutionally sound footing.

The moment Edwards threw down the gauntlet and mandated that private citizens wear masks he probably knew about one-half of the people in Louisiana wouldn’t wear one. They would object to wearing them, mind you, because we Americans sometimes take issue with politicians telling us how to live our lives. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a freedom thing.

Since Landry is an attorney and most likely delved into some case law when he was a law student at Southern University, he’s probably familiar with the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It specifically states all the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

That should clear up any ambiguity over whether a state has the legal authority to protect the health and welfare of its citizenry, including mandating the citizenry wear masks to supposedly prevent the spread of a disease. The U.S. Constitution is mum on whether a governor can mandate the wearing of a mask, so we must turn to the ole 10th Amendment to give us some guidance.

If that’s not a clear path for Landry to follow, perhaps he should read up on Jacobson v. Massachusetts from the early 20th century. In Jacobson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ compulsory vaccination laws did not violate the Constitution. Ergo, common sense tells us that since the U.S. Supreme Court gave a state the green light to compel its citizens to be vaccinated, a state certainly can mandate that its citizens wear a mask to supposedly prevent the spread of a disease.

But what do I know? I’m not an attorney, but I generally comprehend what I read, and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and the Jacobson case are pretty clear to me.

Regardless of the legal wrangling and the more than obvious disdain for one another between Edwards and Landry, we must wonder whether the governor and the state attorney general can find something better to do with their time than argue over a mask mandate.

Don’t they remind you of two children bickering over a Hershey’s chocolate bar on a playground?

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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