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John Stossel Says Give Me a Break to Dumb Laws

ByABC News
June 20, 2002, 4:23 PM

June 21 -- Going on a vacation this summer? Well, you might want to do some legal research before you go, because what you don't know could hurt you at least from a lawmaker's standpoint.

Better not throw snowballs in Belton, Mo. It's illegal there. Flying a kite is illegal in Schaumburg, Ill. In Oregon and New Jersey it's illegal to pump our own gas.

Think government must run your life because you have no common sense? Apparently many of our legislators think that.

But life has risks, and politicians can't protect us from them all. If we don't want any risk in our lives, we'll become a nation of shut-ins.

Bingo & Booze Don't Mix

Legislators everywhere are busy trying to make life better and safer, and they think passing laws will do that. So, in Kern County, Calif., they've made it illegal to play Bingo while drunk.

In Illinois you may not hunt bullfrogs with a firearm. And if you go to El Paso, Texas, you better not sell any ice from out of town. That's illegal.

I know about these laws because Andy Powell and Jeffrey Koon, recent high school graduates in Columbus, Ga., spent four years compiling a list of dumb laws for their Web site. Now, they've published their collection of stupid statutes in a book, You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws.

The laws are always well intended, but the result is that legislatorscreate a spider web of little rules that stifle freedom.

Powell said he thinks legislators "think they're protecting us, but they're really just regulating common sense."

In Tuscaloosa, Fla., Powell and Koon note, you can't give animals any alcoholic drink. In Honolulu it's illegal to annoy a bird.

Arkansas actually has a law against pronouncing their state name as "Ar-Kansas." That law is written in particularly arcane, pompous language. Powell said, "I'm convinced that these laws are written with this language to keep lawyers employed; they're written so that only lawyers can understand them."