Here are some of the law officers in Arkansas announcing they won’t enforce the governor’s mask mandate.

The legislature empowered the governor to take broad executive action to address the pandemic. He belatedly responded to the weight of scientific opinion that universal face-covering could reduce the spread of coronavirus. He ordered masks where distancing is not possible with (too many) exceptions.

Some lawmen think they know better. The governor instantly went wobbly. Local police and sheriffs of course set the priority for what they enforce, he said. True. But priorities and blatant defiance are different things. Some of these putative lawmen declare they won’t even suggest people wear face coverings. Some of them seem to think, scientists that they are, that they are of no benefit. The legal scholars among them also suggest that the governor has acted extra-legally. The evidence is not on their side. Apart from the governor’s statutory authority to act in health emergencies, here’s a law professor’s analysis of the Constitution and face masks. The article indicates the law favors state use of broad measures to protect public health.

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Just don’t expect Marshall, Lonoke County, Randolph County, Polk County and numerous others to believe it. And don’t try to tell them if they stop you for some minor infraction or another that they ought to have different priorities, including one that might save lives.

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