During an era in which most new laws passed by our esteemed senators and representatives seem to have the purpose of separating taxpayers from their hard-earned money, or citizens from their rights, it is rare to see legislators considering measures that make sense.
Perhaps that is why legislation under consideration in Wisconsin seems so refreshing.
A Wisconsin Assembly committee recently passed a bill that would allow pub or liquor store owners to sue anyone who buys alcohol illegally.
Under the legislation proposed by Republican Rep. Andre Jacque, of DePere, people cited for underage drinking would have to pay retailers $1,000 in addition to fines for violating the law. Retailers would be required to provide notice of the law and immediately report violations.
According to an Associated Press story published in the Wisconsin Law Journal, Jacque said he became concerned after a Green Bay police officer informed him of the area’s low rate of compliance regarding checks for underage drinking. He said the bill would deter underage drinkers, citing success with a similar law in Alaska.
The measure passed on a 9-0 vote Tuesday. The full Assembly will take it up in May.
Purveyors of adult beverages have come under increasingly rigorous regulation in recent years.
In addition to stiffer penalties, they are subjected to compliance checks.
If a retailer sells a product illegally, it does not seem unreasonable that there should be penalties.
However, the overriding approach is consistent with the misguided approach to so much of our legislation today.
Instead of holding people accountable for their own actions, we are constantly looking for ways to blame others.
Yes, retailers have a responsibility in selling to those who are underage, but those who deliberately attempt to buy liquor illegally should not get a free pass.
Sadly, it sometimes seems those who break the law have more rights than the victims of their crimes. That doesn’t make sense.
These days, if a person consumes too many adult beverages and injures himself or others, we blame the person who served or sold the liquor. This seems like shaky logic.
That makes about as much sense as someone legally purchasing an air nailer, and then blaming the seller or manufacturer when he uses that nailer to drive a spike into his own skull.
No amount of engineering or warning labels can protect a determined imbecile from himself.
Just last week I read a report of a person in a local county who set out to sell dope to someone to whom he had sold illegal drugs in the past.
According to a report from the sheriff’s office, when the “seller” encountered the prospective “buyer,” the buyer produced a weapon, and liberated the drugs and a small amount of cash from the would-be seller.
The seller, who by his own admission was engaged in an illegal act at the time of the alleged incident, then went to law enforcement and accused the prospective buyer of assault.
Now, anyone with common sense would say if the guy hadn’t been out selling illegal drugs, he wouldn’t have got himself into that predicament in the first place.
One has to wonder, however, how many sensible people are left.
I have heard similar stories of people who trespass on private property with the intention of robbing the place, and then sue the property owner if they happen to get injured while committing their crime.
It seems to me there ought to be more severe consequences for people who break the law than there are for innocent victims.
If we were to stop worrying so much about criminals’ rights, and focus instead on personal responsibility and imposing real consequences for those who break the law holding them accountable rather than placing the blame on others it might even serve as a deterrent, and cause some people to think twice before committing a crime.
To me, this seems like sound reasoning. Cause and effect is among the oldest and most basic forms of behavior modification.
Most of us learn when we are very young that if we touch a hot stove, we will get burned. That is sufficient motivation for most of us to avoid touching hot stoves in the future.
If scofflaws were subjected to serious consequences, rather than mollycoddling when they commit crimes, they might be less inclined to commit them.
The law under consideration in Wisconsin is just one small step toward placing responsibility where it belongs.
We could use more of that sort of clear thinking.
Generally, I am in favor of fewer laws rather than more. But, if we are going to pass new laws, they should at least be based on common sense.