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After the contentious election of George W. Bush in 2000, a young man in Utah put a bumper sticker on his car that read: "King George — Off with His Head." Evidently his humor was not appreciated by the FBI. Agents busted into his home and arrested him for questioning.

Fast forward to 2021, a man yells, “Shoot ‘em” in a crowded church. His response to a question regarding local school superintendents who insist on mask mandates. “Shoot ‘em,” he says. The crowd at Crosspoint Community Church in Missoula erupts into laughter.

The man says he was joking. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Elsie Arntzen responds, “It is so challenging, adults again, make statements that however can be misconstrued, or however can be stated, that it’s incumbent on government to rebuke that.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

While the “Shoot ‘em” man’s humor is protected speech, intent to murder is not. Thankfully, existing law makes it difficult to plan a violent takeover of public education. School boards have the authority to make rules such as mask mandates. But Arntzen hopes to find a legal way to allow parents to opt-out. She said, “We are researching the authority given to my office via law, as well as what extended authority there could be moving forward.” It’s not clear who “we” is or who gives extended authority.

Arntzen insists that public comment is the key to changing mask mandates. She said, “We need to have all of Montana’s voices listened to and recorded in a very public manner.” She may assume that all parents agree with the anti-mask agenda. And those who don’t, well their opinions will be duly noted and on record for the “Shoot ‘em” mob to do with what they may.

Kelli Gannon


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