This week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey extended the state’s lockdown order with threats to punish anyone who violates the order. Two sheriffs in the state, however, have vowed to not enforce it, and cite the U.S. Constitution as their reason.
The order that extended the stay-at-home order through May 15, with some modifications, allowed business owners some freedoms, but also called for violators to face punishment.
Sheriffs Mark Lamb of Pinal County and Doug Schuster of Mohave County each said they would urge people to protect their health, but would not arrest anyone violating the order, according to the Arizona Republic.
Lamb and Schuster are just the most recent sheriffs to announce they were parting ways with the governor of their state. In mid-April, for instance, four sheriffs in upstate Michigan — three Republicans and a Democrat — issued a joint statement saying the would not enforce orders from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Lamb said he would respond to a complaint about a business by sending a deputy to “educate and advise” the business’s owners. He said he will not violate anyone’s rights.
“I think people want to know that we’re going to support their constitutional rights,” he said.
“In tough times, tough decisions have to be made,” Lamb said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “I’m looking at two laws in each hand [and] going with the one that’s 200 years old rather than two days old.”
Lamb said he was not picking a fight with the governor.
“I’m not trying to change his policy, I’m just disagreeing with it, and I won’t enforce it. I don’t think it’s right,” he told the New Times.
“I don’t want to make criminals out of people who are just trying to keep their business from going under.”
When asked whether this could lead to the spread of disease, Lamb noted that individuals take risks “every day we walk out the door.”
Lamb said the risk does not warrant the continued damage to society.
“The numbers don’t justify the actions anymore. Three hundred deaths is not a significant enough number to continue to ruin the economy,” he said, referencing an approximation of the toll the COVID-19 has taken on the state.
Schuster posted his opinion on the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.
“The COVID-19 Pandemic has created a tremendous amount of fear, confusion, and uncertainty. It is clear that the virus is actively among us and has been for some time. We are at a point where the obvious health concerns are being weighed against our personal liberty and freedom,” he wrote. “From the onset I have been clear that it is recommended and advisable to take any and all precaution, in a united effort to slow the spread of the virus. I fully support social distancing and encourage everyone to continue to do their part. We have all noted a marked change in our daily lives, with lines painted on the ground, changes to the way we dine, and personal protective equipment in use by so many. This clearly demonstrates to me that our citizens are more than capable of using good judgement.
“These same law abiding citizens are looking to government leadership for direction and answers. Sending mixed messages and arbitrarily determining which businesses can stay open and which cannot, only lends to the confusion and frustration. We see hotels open and welcoming guests, packed retail stores, busy beaches, and our lakes and rivers overflowing with recreational boaters,” he wrote.
“I will not turn otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals who are simply trying to stay afloat and put food on the table. It is easier for those in government who continue to receive paychecks, to recommend staying the course. Unfortunately, this is not an option for so many who are financially struggling on a daily basis.”
Schuster wrote that he is not out to start a war with state government.
“I am not trying to thwart the Governor’s Executive Orders and I understand that he is in a very precarious position. It is clear to me that he is greatly concerned for the well-being of the state and is doing what he determines is best. The President of the United States ceded the responsibility of re-opening the states to the Governors. As the 15 counties in Arizona are so distinctly different, I believe the Counties should be granted this same consideration,” he wrote.
“In any event, as the Elected Sheriff, I in turn must do what I feel is best for the protection of the citizens of Mohave County. I cannot in good conscious, and will not control the legal free movement of others based on directives that I believe are in conflict with the Constitution. Law enforcement should not become the social distancing police. Therefore, I will not issue citations or make arrests in reference to the guidelines stipulated in the Stay at Home Orde.”
In closing, he urged readers to “stay safe.”