Local Editorials

Our view: ‘Drano’ law an invasion of privacy

Have we reached the point as a society where our grandmothers have to show ID and sign a log book to buy a bottle of Drano?

Apparently, lawmakers in Springfield, including Marengo Democrat Jack Franks, thought the answer was yes.

They passed a new law that requires anyone who buys caustic and noxious substances, which include everyday items such as drain cleaners and pool chemicals, have their name, address and amount of purchase entered into a log at the store.

The law came in response to a couple of incidents where people in Chicago were disfigured for life after they were burned with acid. The enormity of such attacks is unquestionable – but the state’s method of fighting this problem is questionable.

“What we had heard was that people were using these substances for very bad purposes, for evil,” Franks, who co-sponsored the law, told reporter Sarah Sutschek. “We thought that this law was needed to help protect the public from those who wish to do them harm.”

So, in response to a couple of incidents, lawmakers laid a double-whammy on us: Thousands of people around the state – almost all law-abiding citizens – will have their activities tracked by the government, and local merchants will have to keep the books and make them available to police or face steep fines.

These products are used for legitimate purposes by homeowners around our state more than 99.9 percent of the time. It is hard to see the value in this registry, which is certain to become very, very long. Even if it were somehow to uncover evidence that a person of interest had purchased drain cleaner, what does that prove, exactly? That they had a stopped-up drain?

Your local hardware store is filled with tools that have legitimate uses but also could be used for “evil.”

There are screwdrivers, claw hammers, rodent poisons, chainsaws, and all manner of other implements that have been creatively deployed in horror films.

Shall we be compelled to present our ID and sign a logbook each time we buy one of those as well?

Perhaps everything we buy should be recorded in a ledger maintained by the people we buy it from, to be turned over to the government whenever authorities ask.

That doesn’t sound particularly American, though. And neither is the state’s new Drano ledger law, which unreasonably invades citizens’ privacy and ought to be repealed.

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