It’s not often I have reason to praise a major politician. It’s even less often that I expect to have praise for Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, but Gov. Moonbeam did something praiseworthy last week.
After the California Legislature passed a bill requiring helmets for minors skiing or snowboarding, Brown vetoed it, telling lawmakers in his veto message that parents should make the decision for their children instead. The veto message (PDF) said:
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.
This measure would impose criminal penalites on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.
While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.
I believe parents have the ability and the responsibility to make good choices for their children.
Edmund G. Brown
I’m a big fan of wearing helmets when doing dangerous things, but I’m an even bigger fan of parents having the power to make decisions for their own children.
Proponents of the law cite statistics showing how many people under the age of 18 are injured in skiing accidents, and I’m sympathetic with those arguments. (I was one of the few people who used seat belts — and insisted that anyone riding with me was belted, too — before it was ever a legal requirement.) But if we’re going to say that the state should enforce anything that gives someone a statistically better chance of surviving, where exactly does that stop?
Why stop with children? Why stop with skiing and snowboarding? In fact, why not mandate that dangerous activities be outlawed entirely? If you use the argument that there are risks in certain activities, I’ll agree. If you want to argue that it’s smarter and more responsible to have your kids wear helmets and take other precautions, I’ll also agree. But if you want to argue that it’s the state’s responsibility to decide when to wear a helmet, I’d say you’ve gone too far.
Brown is right to point out that not every human problem deserves a law to fix it. Can you imagine the freedom we could reclaim if he and other politicians applied the same logic to many other things?