By now, we think everyone knows where we stand on masks. We supported the City of Lawton’s requirements that they be worn in stores, outside when social distancing couldn’t be maintained, and the exemptions for those with health conditions.
We don’t believe the mask requirements are “unconstitutional”, and unless you also consider seat belt laws, prohibitions against drunkenness and public nudity as unconstitutional, we don’t buy those arguments either.
We recognize that masks won’t keep you from getting the COVID-19 virus, but we think it helps to some degree (how much, is open for debate) and that combined with social distancing and washing your hands will likely help keep you well. And until something more substantial in terms of research comes out, that’s where it ends.
However, the City of Norman, this week, took their mandate to a level that we do have a problem with: Requiring masks, inside private residences, if 25 or more persons are there.
It’s not hard to figure out why. Norman has more than its share of college students. And students doing what students do, they gather, whether to party or watch a football game — or both. But this isn’t only about college students. There are many reasons why more than 25 people might gather inside a home for a private party.
So, the city decided this is a behavior that must be stopped and expanded its mask ordinance to apply inside private residences. A fine of $50-$100 is mandated, though there must be at least three violations before a fine can be levied.
In case you’re not aware, Norman’s had its share of contentious issues of late. A recall of the mayor and some councilpersons, a vote to “defund” the police department (which really wasn’t defunding. The budget actually increased, but just not to the full amount that was requested), as well as whether various funds are being spent as voters approved.
But applying a mask mandate inside a private residence, in our view, is beyond the pale.
Now, there are lots of things you can’t do inside your residence. You can’t do illegal drugs, you can’t cook meth, you can’t assault someone. And presumably, if those types of things are happening, the police would be required to get a warrant to come into your home to enforce that law. So, are local police officers going to get a warrant to tackle this new offense?
Now, of course, we’re being facetious. Local police have more important things to do. And if they did find out there was such a gathering, they’d probably just knock on the door and remind residents of the requirement.
Still, while we recognize there is a potential impact to public health here, this is a gross example of government overreach and an out-of-bounds example we hope no other governmental body opts to follow.