Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Here is a column from Townhall.com about the sex offender-free, drug-free, and gun-free zones that seem to be popping up everywhere and instigating debate along the way (post about sex offender residency restrictions ripe for challenge in the Supreme Court). Mainly, critics wonder (1) if these laws are effective or counterproductive and (2) if they even pass constitutional muster.
An excerpt of the column: Across the country, politicians are eager to draw magical circles of protection they claim will banish evil and keep children safe. It's an easy, cheap way of opposing what everyone opposes and supporting what everyone supports. But the resulting crazy quilt of drug-free, gun-free and molester-free zones is ineffective, sometimes counterproductive and frequently unjust.
Sex offender-free zones. Consider the Georgia woman who was labeled a sex offender because she performed fellatio on a 15-year-old when she was 17. Last year she had to move because she was too close to a day-care center. Now she and her husband may have to move again because they're too close to a school bus stop, a location added to the state's list of restrictions in April. Georgia's law, which has been challenged in federal court, also would exile all 490 registered sex offenders in DeKalb County, mostly men who as teenagers had consensual sex with younger girls. It even applies to sex offenders dying in nursing homes. Other states have narrower laws, but police and prosecutors still worry that onerous restrictions on where sex offenders may live will push them onto the streets or discourage them from complying with registration requirements, making them harder to track...
The same can be said of the gun-free school zones designated by state and federal laws. They are not likely to deter anyone bent on violence. Worse, they advertise that all the law-abiding people at a school are unarmed and therefore easy prey...
Drug-free zones, which trigger enhanced penalties for drug dealing or possession within a certain distance (usually between 500 and 1,500 feet) of locations such as schools, parks and day-care centers, likewise mainly affect people other than their official targets. Ostensibly aimed at protecting children, they typically boost prison sentences for drug offenses that involve only adults. A December 2005 report from New Jersey's sentencing review commission found that students were involved in only 2 percent of cases where drug-free zones were invoked. Because they cover so much territory, the zones have become an excuse for harsher punishment rather than a deterrent to selling drugs near minors. Full story from Townhall.com. . . [Michele Berry]