Gorilla incident does not require new law

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Ohio residents are keenly aware of the recent tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo, which resulted in the death of a silverback lowland gorilla named Harambe. Blame has been tossed around recklessly, as emotions in hindsight override common sense in the moment. What most see is a child who emerged relatively unscathed while a majestic creature lost his life, and there has been a rather nasty call to inflict some sort of punishment on the child’s parents.

An investigation has begun as to whether there was, indeed, any neglect on the parents’ part; but the vast majority of level-headed folks agree a) most parents have had a moment in which they lost sight of a squirrely four-year-old in a crowded place; and b) the team at the zoo made the decision they deemed best to ensure the child’s safety.

So, why, then, is one Ohio lawmaker pressing the point by seeking a new law to impose fines or criminal charges on anyone who causes the death of an endangered animal due to negligence? Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Hamilton may think he can cash in on all that negative emotion by seeking yet another law on the books, but the reaction from fellow state senator Bill Seitz, R-Hamilton, is much closer to the mindset lawmakers should have at this time.

“This is how we got to prisons overflowing. Life is not free of tragedies and accidents,” Seitz said.

Precisely. Tragedy cannot be legislated away, much as some politicians might pretend to try.

Bad things happen.

Certainly many of the laws we have on the books are necessary, but the existence of a law does not guarantee it will be obeyed, or even that it will be possible to enforce. Law created as a knee-jerk reaction to a highly publicized event is almost never a good idea.

Surely cooler heads will prevail, and Thomas will take another look to realize this one just is not worth the effort.

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