New Hampshire Votes Down Bill Allowing Voluntary Forfeit of Gun Rights

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File

The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, natural right that each person has simply because they're alive. People aren't required to exercise it or any other natural right, of course, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

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But should people be allowed to formally forfeit that right, even for a short period of time?

Many think that they should, that if there's a mental health crisis and someone knows they might hurt themselves, they should be free to put their name on a list and be prohibited from buying a gun.

And a number of states thought it was a good idea, too, and made it the law.

New Hampshire, on the other hand, figured that such a bill was stupid.

The New Hampshire House on Thursday narrowly rejected creating a process by which people could voluntarily prohibit themselves from buying guns.

Three other states — Utah, Virginia and Washington — already allow people to voluntarily waive their rights to own firearms and add themselves to the federal database of prohibited purchasers, said Rep. David Meuse, a Portsmouth Democrat and sponsor of the defeated bill. His inspiration was a woman who, devasted by her son’s suicide in 2022, said the bill could help prevent her from acting on her own thoughts of suicide.

“The bottom line is, it’s not a decision about whether or not to own a firearm. It’s a personal health care decision and a case study in empowering the freedom of choice in a state where many of us like to loudly proclaim how much we treasure personal liberty,” he said.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee had recommended passing the bill, but it failed on a vote of 179-200, with all but seven Democrats supporting it and all but one Republican opposing it.

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At least some of the opponents of the bill figure this is a matter of "easier said than done," for one thing. They noted that just because the state says someone wants to be removed, the feds are under absolutely no obligation to actually follow through.

Another lawmaker brought up the possibility of someone more or less being coerced into "voluntarily" giving up their gun rights. The example given is a psychiatrist who an individual depends on to deal with mental health issues but will only continue seeing them if they put their name on the list. 

It might be "voluntary" because you're not legally required to see that psychiatrist, but it's really not.

And just how difficult would it be for someone else to sign you up for the list?

Honestly, if someone doesn't want their rights, it's no skin of my butt. Yet the problems here may well be that it wouldn't necessarily be their choice. Like it or not, there are people who don't respect your rights and who think you shouldn't have guns at all. If they have any authority over your life, what's to keep them from pressuring someone to go along with something like this?

No, I'm glad this bill got defeated. May all such bills see a similar fate.

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