By Kianna Chickering for The Liberty Block 

In the coming weeks, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will be considering three bills concerning the rights and responsibilities of adolescents. Two of these bills diminish the capacity of adolescents while one of them promotes responsibility for the young adults. At its core, the debate reflects two divergent ideologies. Authoritarians believe that the government must control everything people do, especially when those people are below 18. Voluntaryists believe that people should run their own lives and that parents and adolescents can jointly determine how to navigate life’s choices. In cases of truly severe child abuse, applicable laws already exist and are not in any danger of being repealed. 

Proposed by Democrat Michael Cahill, House Bill 125 would amend the already restrictive laws governing how and when adolescents may work, making them even more strict and burdensome for all parties. The bill states that “Between the date on which the school year begins and the date the school year ends, no youth 16 or 17 years of age who is duly enrolled in school shall work more than 35 hours. And No youth 16 or 17 years of age who is duly enrolled in school shall work for more than 6 consecutive days or 48 hours in any one week during school vacations, including summer vacation…no youth shall be permitted to work later than 9:00 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, or later than 12:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.”

Why should the government be telling me, a responsible teenager with active parents, how much I am legally permitted to work and when I can do it? Perhaps the sponsor should have titled the bill something to the effect of “An act requiring all minors to wear diapers and suck on pacifiers”. I know myself better than anyone else could. I should be able to know how much I can work and handle. Naturally, my parents and I work together to make those decisions. We do not need politicians, bureaucrats, and cops telling me that I can only do a little amount of work because I am not an adult. And nobody should be telling me when I can work. If I want to work an 8-11 PM shift because I don’t have to get up until 9 in the morning, shouldn’t that decision be made by my employer, my parents, and me? What about home-schooled children who work til midnight and begin to learn at 2 in the afternoon? This politician and those who support the bill are trashing teenagers and saying that we are complete babies who literally need a government-mandated bed time. One legislator on the committee pointed out during the public hearing that teenagers may not go straight home after work. Forcing them to clock out by 9 PM may actually increase the likelihood of them engaging in undesirable extracurricular activities before going home. Allowing teens to work their normal shift and then go home to sleep – as we do with adults who we trust – is likely to have the better outcome.

Not only does this affect the adolescent workers, but it also affects employers. It is no secret that businesses in New Hampshire are beyond desperate for workers. The more complex and strict adolescent labor laws become, the more likely employers are to see adolescents as liabilities rather than assets. And that means fewer jobs for the ambitious and responsible teens and an even smaller labor pool in New Hampshire. Only a Democrat could concoct the brilliant idea of solving the horrific labor shortage by limiting the supply of labor and harming and disparaging the most well-behaved teens.

It is also worth noting that teenagers under 18 must obey the laws and pay the taxes created by legislators despite not being able to vote for legislators. Didn’t I learn something about ‘taxation without representation’ being tyrannical? 

UPDATE: This bill was KILLED in the House!

Proposed by four Democrats, House Bill 351 not only throws minors under the bus, but it shoves their parents down there, too. This bill is titled ‘Relative to the negligent storage of firearms and relative to firearm safety devices’ and amends the current law by saying that “Any person who stores or leaves on premises under that person’s control a loaded firearm and who knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm] or an unloaded firearm with unsecured compatible ammunition in such a manner that it is available to a child without the supervision or permission…” And “Any person who violates paragraph III shall be [fined not more than $1,000] guilty of a misdemeanor.

So if a parent were to leave their gun in a location known to their teenager so that it could be used in an emergency, the parent would be guilty of a misdemeanor. What if someone breaks in and the adult is in the shower and the burglar is armed? The kid is not going to try to protect themselves with a butter knife. Might as well just tell the parents if they should have kids or not if they are gonna control their life. Obviously, the parent would not leave it out in the open for a little kid or someone irresponsible to get to, they would put it in a place where only some people know that they need to use it in case of an emergency. Can minors not defend themselves now? 

This bill would expand the definitions for the crime of negligently leaving a firearm within reach of a minor. Once again, these sly Democrats have taken what appears to be a common-sense idea and expanded it to such a wide net that it violates basic liberties. The bill makes a few edits to current law, which states that a parent who allows a child under 16 to gain access to a firearm and use it recklessly is guilty of a crime. (crossed out is repealed and bold is added)

1) “Any person who stores or leaves on premises under that person’s control a loaded firearm and who knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm] or an unloaded firearm with unsecured compatible ammunition in such a manner that it is available to a child without the supervision or permission…” This would make a significant change to current law by changing the language from ‘leaves a loaded gun’ to ‘has any unloaded gun if there is also ammunition in the home’. It also amends the law by requiring direct supervision in addition to simple permission. So, if a parent were to leave their gun somewhere safe where their teenager knows just in case they need to use it, the parent would be guilty of a serious crime. What if someone breaks into their home while the parent is in the bathroom? If the responsible adolescent accesses her father’s firearm and successfully repels the robber, their parent could be incarcerated for a year. Again, if these politicians do not trust parents to raise children, they should prohibit procreation or create a child-rearing license. Obviously, the parent would not leave a loaded gun with a hair trigger around toddlers. Remember, child abuse and neglect laws already exist.  But this bill is even more troublesome than it may appear at first glance. HB351 would seemingly prohibit adolescents from defending themselves with firearms in any scenario unless their parent were directly supervising them. Can minors not defend themselves now? Seems like that violates my natural right to self defense, my natural right to property, the US Constitution, and the NH Constitution. 

2) “…is guilty of a [violation] misdemeanor if a child gains access to a firearm…” This would obviously increase the penalties massively, possibly introducing jail time to the crime.

3) The current law states that it is only a crime if the child gains access to the gun and “the firearm is used in a reckless or threatening manner, or the firearm is used during the commission of any misdemeanor or felony, or the firearm is negligently or recklessly discharged.” This bill cleverly adds in a few more instances in which the law would apply: “The firearm is exhibited or displayed to others or the firearm is brought onto the grounds of any building or facility, public or private, accessible to members of the public where other people are present.” These hugely broad clauses would make it a crime if the child touched the firearm, not only if the child actually did something harmful or reckless with it. 

4) The bill also increases penalties here: “Any person who violates paragraph III shall be [fined not more than $1,000] guilty of a misdemeanor. If the child discharges a weapon obtained as a result of gross negligence resulting in the injury or death of the child or of another person, or uses it to commit a felony, such person shall be charged with a class B felony.”

The CJ committee recommended passing this bill by a vote of 10-9 with an amendment that would remove the (redundant) part about gun locks. Email your Representatives immediately and demand that they vote against this bill!

Conversely, House bill 55 would grant more responsibility to adolescents by promoting the notion that we are responsible enough to handle things on our own and/or in tandem with our parents. Proposed by seven Republicans, House bill 55 states, “The commissioner shall waive the driver education course requirement if a father, mother, or guardian of the applicant, or in the event there is no parent or guardian, another responsible adult, submits in writing that [he has] a valid New Hampshire driver’s license, has provided for instruction, either in person or online, and 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training.”

This bill proposes that 16 year-olds and their parents are capable of determining whether they are fit to drive! Wow! A minor deciding for themselves… Who would’ve thought! This is how it should be for adolescents. We are of that age where we can decide for ourselves and know what’s good for us. 

Please email the House Transportation Committee and ask the members to support HB55, and then tell your State Representatives to do the same. 

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.