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By John Miltimore

On the morning of June 26, 2018, Donna Nathan bought her first gun—a small .38 caliber pistol—and some bullets for $530.

After crafting a short note to her partner that read “I’m sorry I love you,” Nathan went to the Tree of Life in Audubon Park in New Orleans and took her own life.

Her purchase that day ended a decades-long battle with depression and bipolar disorder that had intensified in the final year of Nathan’s life. The Wall Street Journal reports she had voluntarily admitted herself for psychiatric treatment three times in the last six months of her life after experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“Each time, she willingly accepted the limitations on liberty that come with a psychiatric hospitalization in exchange for safety and the prospect of improvement,” Yale law professors Fredrick Vars and Ian Ayres write in the Journal. “What she could not limit, under Louisiana law, was her ability to quickly purchase a gun.”

Nathan was one of 48,344 Americans who died by suicide in 2018. About half of those deaths were from firearms, which are used in 23,000 suicides each year, on average.

It’s no secret that suicides account for the vast majority of gun deaths in the US. Though mass shootings receive the most attention, they account for less than one percent of gun deaths in America. Suicide by firearm, on the other hand, accounts for 60 percent of gun deaths in the US.

One person who nearly found himself in this demographic was Vars, the Yale professor who wrote about Nathan in the Journal.

“I’m bipolar and have been suicidal,” Vars told Newsweek. “I’ve gotten better.”

For this reason, Vars joined Ayres in advocating a unique gun control measure called “Donna’s Law”—named after Nathan. The legislation aims to reduce gun deaths by allowing people in distress to suspend their own constitutional right to purchase a firearm.

According to the Journal, Virginia and Washington have already adopted the law, while similar legislation has been introduced in nine other states.

Gun control is perhaps the most polarizing political topic in the country today. The issue is often framed as a binary choice: protect liberty or protect lives.

Donna’s Law shows this is a false choice. We can save lives and protect liberty.

By using two concepts libertarians and economists often preach—choice and voluntary action—states can help individuals suspend their own Second Amendment rights during periods of emotional distress and depression. By signing up for the law, the person’s name is added to the FBI’s background check system, preventing gun dealers from allowing them to purchase a firearm.

Donna’s Law will not end firearms suicide, of course. Many people in distress will choose not to submit their names, even though they are kept confidential and can later be removed from the system. And even people who choose to use Donna’s Law may still fall victim to suicide. They could purchase a firearm illegally, steal one, or find an alternative method. (Few things in this world can prevent an individual from taking the ultimate step if she’s truly determined to do so.)

Nevertheless, Donna’s Law will save lives. Similar measures like waiting periods for gun purchases, which are far more invasive because they temporarily prevent mentally healthy people from possessing a firearm, have shown statistically significant reductions in suicide. One study found waiting periods reduced suicides by 11 percent.

That might not sound like a lot, but if that figure was applied to firearm suicides nationwide, we’re talking about 2,500 lives each year—more than two and half times the number of Americans who have died in mass shootings since 1982.

“Libertarian gun control is not an oxymoron,” Vars and Ayres declare, noting that Donna’s Law is politically disarming and was not opposed by the National Rifle Association after being introduced in Alabama.

I’d go further. Donna’s Law has the potential to be the most effective form of gun control— if one wishes to call it that—introduced in modern American history.

To be sure, there are aspects of the law that are complicated, especially for libertarians.

The policy hinges on government depriving a citizen of a natural right through a third-party by utilizing a federal database. Mission creep and bureaucratic dysfunction pose potential threats. (How long before a citizen finds she can’t get her name off the background check system?)

Then there is the objection that Second Amendment rights are inalienable, which means, as Murray Rothbard explained, “they cannot be surrendered, even if the person wishes to do so.” The inalienability of rights is explicitly referenced in the Declaration of Independence and is an important part of the American tradition of liberty.

These are important questions to consider.

However, there are time-honored precedents in the Western legal tradition for Donna’s Law, which is similar to the familiar scenario of the deranged man who voluntarily submits himself to the sanitarium, temporarily relinquishing his liberty in the hope he will get well.

For me, two considerations are decisive. Donna’s Law has the potential to save thousands of lives and its success will stem directly from the fact that lawmakers embraced voluntary human action and individual choice, not force and coercion, to address the public health crisis of suicide.


Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of His writing/reporting has been the subject of articles in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Star Tribune.

Bylines: Newsweek, The Washington Times,, The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, the Epoch Times.

This article was originally published on and is reprinted here with permission. Read the original article.

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  1. Ummm…can’t Kar er Donna off herself with a bottle of pills or a good old fashioned razor? My only comment is “how about that background check law”?!? Oh young Klye got a ridiculous $2000000 bail😕😕😕

    • Suicide with a gun is easier than pretty much anything else. Mechanically, psychologically. It’s quick, often painless, and requires only the squeeze of a trigger and the bullet does the rest. It’s a completely different thing than, say, opening up your blood vessels and watching yourself bleed to death.

      There’s a very good reason why suicide by firearm is so common compared to other methods- and why it’s so much more successful.

      That doesn’t mean liberties should be taken away- but it is reality.

      • It is easy. I’ve known one gunshot suicide and one that hanged himself. But removing guns really means very little. Just look at the Japanese rate of suicide.

      • Oh really??????? It’s not the same???? God i’m glad I have you around to teach me this stuff…. cause I could’ve sworn blowing your brains out was the same as “opening a vein”…..

        Do these morons even hear themselves and f k n stupid they sound when they type this $hit???

        Hey “hannibal”….s t f u…..u sound like a g d idiot….

      • I met someone who had attempted suicide with a shotgun.

        He disfigured his face, blinded himself and suffered brain damage. But he survived.

        So suicide by gun isn’t necessarily easier or painless.

      • I spoke to a semi-retired nurse, in gun country, a year ago. She brought up the substantial number of failed suicides via gunshot to the head, that they experienced. The hospital even considered PSA advertisements on how not to commit suicide, but didn’t follow through.

    • Easier than that. A trash bag, some duct tape, and a can of computer dust spray will do it. A gun sounds messy, possibly quite painful, and close-casketed.

    • Completely disagree. What you describe is merely lack of its exercise.

      There is a big difference between not bothering to write something vis-a-vis being subject to government violence should one dare attempt to write something.

      • Wtf……… are you even talking about??????

        God please fry these morons computers or something……. reading these comments from these IDIOTS is enough to cause someone to off themselves!

    • My take away too.

      What is the mechanism & timeline to take themselves OFF the FBI background check list – When these people decide “I’m no longer a danger to myself and or others, and now I would like to own a gun”.

  2. “My body, my choice.” I say let ’em if they want to.

    But the Leftist mindset will be to find way to ‘expand it’, beyond the individual choice…

    • “ But the Leftist mindset will be to find way to ‘expand it’, beyond the individual choice…”

      And that’s what makes this idea so dangerous. It starts with self-reporting and ends with the loss of due process. Also, there will be cases where the government bureaucracy forgets or neglects to remove someone who does get better. So many potential pitfalls here.

    • This is all I could find: “Once they present photo identification proving their identity, their names are entered into the National Instant Criminal Background System, which is used to identify people prohibited from buying guns. Those on the list can remove their names at any moment, but there is a waiting period of anywhere between 7 to 21 days before they can once again purchase a gun.”

  3. In principle, I’m ok with this. Some people are incredibly irresponsible and can’t be trusted to handle dangerous items safely, such as those who would vote for Biden. If they recognize that they shouldn’t have guns because they lack self control and might hurt themselves or others, then it’s good that they can’t get a gun. They might be mostly rational while medicated and worry what they would do if they slipped and got off their meds. However, they still can get ahold of plenty of other lethally dangerous items. There also needs to be a method to take your name off the banned list, and a suicidal person could take that step and then get a gun.

  4. whaaat? 60% of gun deaths are from suicide? I thought these guns were killing people everywhere, and we have to get rid of them because they’re so dangerous! but it turns out you are 30% more likely to shoot yourself with your own gun, than to have somebody else shoot you?!

    they should force them to show that pie chart whenever they do a hit piece on guns on the news.

  5. One person who nearly found himself in this demographic was Vars, the Yale professor who wrote about Nathan in the Journal.

    “I’m bipolar and have been suicidal,” Vars told Newsweek. “I’ve gotten better.”

    Well what the hell is a suicidal professor doing teaching college classes? I thought the colleges were “all in” for “student safety”?

  6. The real question is why people that are being treated for mental health disorders that would place themselves or others at risk aren’t already flagged by during the background check process. If you are concerned with suicide and want to single out firearms, fix this flow of information.

  7. It’s a Catch-22 problem. The “Law” would Legally recognize a decision made by a person that is significantly mentally ill (to the point of self harm) and not fully in control of their facualities. That’s a new legal standard. Its like defining those found not guilty or unable to stand Trial due to insanity as now being “mentally sufficient” to do so in all cases.

    Let’s not forget how these type Laws ge altered. Red Flag Laws provide a fine example: look at the expansions as to “who” can file/request a Red Flag Order. It would be mere days before there was a call to allow parents, spouse, siblings, domestic partners, lovers, friends, neighbors, coworkers and Joe Shit the Rag Man to requesting a “Suspension of firearm Rights” on anybody!

    Also note they mention the Suspension can be removed but not how? Is it Shall or May restore? In 10 or 20 years? With Medical Affidavits from five Shrinks? And the ever popular “For good reason/cause?

    No, no, Hell no! Good intent will not prevent expansion and abuse, just another entry point for gun control expansion.

  8. Meh…Another”FeelzGood” Law that once again does nothing to solve or even help the underlying condition. This is exactly why the Left can’t be trusted to accomplish anything because they rely on Emotions rather than Intellect. As long as it makes them feel good about themselves it must be right.

  9. Form 4473, Question #11, Part F:

    “Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective (which includes a determination by a court board, commission, or other lawful authority that you are a danger to yourself or others or are incompetent to manage your own affairs) OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?”

    Wall Street Journal:

    “The Wall Street Journal reports she had voluntarily admitted herself for psychiatric treatment three times in the last six months of her life after experiencing suicidal thoughts.”

    • Every law needs 20 other, very similar, laws to back it up before it can work. Apparently.

      See: distracted driving.

    • IIRC you are not considered “committed” if you do it to yourself, only if it’s involuntary.

      And to some extent that makes sense since one’s a court order that’s public and the other is a medical choice you made that’s theoretically protected by HIPAA.

      • “Her history of multiple suicide attempts and mental illness would never pop up on the background check because those issues never involved police or a court of law, which would’ve gone on her record.

        Years before her suicide, Nathan voluntarily had herself committed to confinement for fear she would harm herself.”

        “If she had gone before a judge and the courts, there would have been possibly a way to remove her access to guns. But because my mother was voluntarily committed, and all her mental health care was voluntary, none of her rights were ever removed. In that moment when she got access to that gun it sort of ended our clock as a family,” said Brees.

  10. If Donna could make the decision to buy a gun then off herself Donna was perfectly capable of making the decisions not to.

    • “Donna was perfectly capable of making the decisions not to.”

      No, she was mentally ill and incapable of making a rational decision consistently.

      But it’s all her personal responsibility, as someone once asked many years ago:

      “Am I my brothers keeper?“

      Apparently not.

      • Quite clear that you’re very familiar with “mentally ill and incapable of making a rational decision”

  11. Seems pretty reasonable due to the fact that you could not possible kill yourself any other way.

    Drug overdoses, jumping off bridges, driving off a cliff, hitting a tree with your car, sitting on railroad tracks, sleeping pills, chemical fumes, hanging are just not effective.

    Nothing like ruining your day after waking up after getting run over by a train. I hate when that happens

  12. Here’s what I worry about: prosecutors, lawyers and judges will find ways to coerce people into “volunteering” for this. If you ever go to a DUI trial there’s a good chance you’ll hear the defense lawyer get up and talk about how his client went into an alcohol rehab program. Is it because the person was an out-of-control alcoholic? Maybe. Or maybe it was someone who made a stupid decision one night and his lawyer knows that the only way to get a suspended sentence and fine from the judge and prosecutor is for the defendant to ‘voluntarily’ undergo treatment first and show up with that in hand.

    How about family court? Or maybe someone is having a restraining order battle and the moving side (i.e. the one seeking the motion) agrees to drop a spurious attempt in exchange for the person going on the ‘voluntary’ list?

    It’s not a bad idea in theory. It’s just problematic because our court system thrives on finding innovative ways to punish people indirectly.

    • My thoughts exactly. It’s not hard to see someone facing a relatively minor crime being coerced into this as a part of the plea bargain system or to show “good faith” to the courts in the hope of a lighter sentence. In theory I don’t have a problem with the concept, but as we’ve seen, especially this year, any power the government is given will be magnified tenfold beyond its original scope

  13. “I’m bipolar and have been suicidal,” Vars told Newsweek. “I’ve gotten better.”

    Self diagnosis is self deception.

  14. I think we should put the same 10-day waiting period for driving over a bridge, driving car, buying chemicals, buying rope, driving and crossing railroad tracks.

  15. It’s all good until it becomes mandatory. Gun rights are constantly under attack, every numbnut liberal with an absurd idea is hailed as some type of minor prophet. There is absolutely no appeasing these clowns.

  16. I don’t care if I sound insensitive: How upset am I supposed to be when a chronically mentally disturbed person succeeds at what they’re determined to do? I’ve had two suicides in my extended family (cousin and a nephew who was actually the same age as me). Both of them were trouble to everyone around them their whole lives, and neither of them committed suicide extremely young (one thirties, one forties). One of them had kids. If their last selfish, ungrateful act was to put the burden of the death of a child on their parents and to leave their children fatherless then, frankly, I thought good riddance. At least it’s over.

  17. I’m sure you’ll get your rights back just as quick as you give them away. That’s what history shows happens every time.


      • And it posed a question to ponder…

        Surely during the founding of our nation and the writing of those documents there were some wackos, nutjobs, loons, ect running about??

        Had to have been…what was done about that? The 2nd defines ‘everybody’ including those that appear as squirrel bait.


  18. hmm no problem with voluntary placing yourself on a restricted list. If your conscious enough to decide that your a possible danger and want to prevent getting a gun in the future, sure why not? YOU are making the Choice, not anyone else. Same with abortion, YOU make the choice to abort the next liberal, good riddance.

    • you want to annull your 2A rights because you think you have mental problems.

      so you, being self-declared mentally deficient, are going to sign a legal document with the government to annull one of your fundamental human rights.

      I think used toilet paper would have more legal viability.

  19. Gus’s point on Form 4473, Question #11, Part F is well-taken. I’m baffled by this proposed law. Within five miles of my house I’ve witnessed three suicides moments after the fact. One was a domestic violence that ended in a police standoff and my neighbor shooting himself in the head instead of accepting certain arrest. The second one laid down on the railroad tracks. The third jumped off a highway overpass into heavy traffic. My point in bringing this up is that people who need help need to seek help. Donna sought help, but still went and bought a firearm. Personally revoking one’s 2nd amendment right is just another cry for help after six months of getting help. Form4473 is not meant to be an access gateway to a suicide hotline. Suicide and gun ownership are entirely separate things. The firearm is just a means to an end that doesn’t give a bus driver in heavy traffic nightmares.

    • There have been three suicides with rental guns at my local gun range. The suicides left a bloody mess behind for strangers to clean up. Some of the workers are still traumatized. None of them will ever be the same after having to muck up blood and brains.

      • You don’t even need a rental gun. Buy a Glock magazine, load it up, stick it in your pocket, go down to the local FFL and ask to look at the corresponding model. Before they can react, slam the mag home, rack the slide, put to temple, pull trigger. It would be a really shitty thing to do of course but it’s far from beyond the realm of possibility.

        • A guy pulled that trick to acquire an AR from a pawnshop not too long ago. Asked to inspect the rifle and soon as he had it in his hands, pulled a loaded mag from his back pocket, jammed it in place, racked the charging handle, pointed it at the clerk and backed out the door. I don’t recall if they caught the guy or not (he was identified by the security video though).

    • -Dan are you insuating that pshrinks can’t/don’t fix crazy? “More $ for mental health” (reliable prog voters) is a universal totem of the left.

  20. Listen you chuckleheads.
    Folks who suffer mental health issues are, and always have been, second class citizens.

    It’s now (officially) OK to be born, however you are. Insert minority.
    It is NOT OK to have a medical issue, whether born with, or as a result of sustained damage.

    That isn’t right.
    Depression is the leading cause of disability in the US.
    Not cancer.
    F*** cancer BTW, but I see none of that resolve being applied to mental health.

    You know what makes people hopeless?
    A lack of hope.

  21. Razor blades, rope, cars, and access to bridges and high places to be off limits too or just firearms because guns?

  22. If somebody is that much in fear of their own actions then hell yes they should be able to place themselves into the FBI NICS as a self declared threat to themselves or to others. Do I think that will stop a lot of suicides?


    But if they are honest enough to admit their own mental-behavioral untrustworthiness, they should have the right to do so in the fullest legal sense.

    There should also be mental health care available in this country. Used to be, but we tore that down made up lies to give ourselves comfort back around forty years ago.

    • I tend to agree. Plus, during arguments about the 2A we could tell them to surrender their own rights, not ours.

  23. IF it hadn’t been a gun, there are a multitude of other ways to commit suicide…
    Had her 4473 been denied that day, she would’ve found another way to die, all by her own hand…

  24. No…
    This is a great example of NICS problems. I’m not seeing any indication that the author has any real understanding of what’s going on. NICS has a purpose and should not be circumvented by a state like that. She submitted herself yet nothing red flagged her during the purchase. That’s what NICS is for. Creating a new law does NOTHING but gum up the works and give people more to argue about.

    Why is this person a Yale law professor when he clearly has issues and no understanding? Then to be given more credibility through the Wall Street journal and this site. This is exactly the craziness that makes me stay away from those idiots. These ARE the people teaching our youth and create ‘the swamp’ in Washington.

    People like her would not die like that if we took this stuff seriously. ‘Donnas Law’ is absurd. It fixes the barn doors AFTER the horses come home and doesn’t even do that.

  25. Guns get singled out while numerous other means of suicide get a pass.
    Because Gun Control Zealots know Gun Control is rooted in racism and genocide Gun Control Zealots are always looking for something to justify their racist and nazi based agenda.

  26. Took a dead girl off a rope one time. She hung herself in a closet with a sheet tied around the clothes rod. It was such a small space that she had to ‘build’ a pile of clothes to knee on, put the rope (sheet) on, then hold her ankles up behind her and wiggle her knees to knock the pile of clothes out from under her….. somebody wants to kill themselves they are gonna… one way or another… no gd rules or laws or anyone on the face of the earth is gonna stop them

  27. My first real job as an adult was working as a psychiatric aide in a Michigan State mental hospital. I would guess I am personally and/or professionally acquainted with around 2 thousand or so souls that I have knowledge of that they had tried to kill themselves at one point or another. I am aware of maybe 70 or so that later succeeded (but believe that number is likely 5X that). Another thing I know is that not one of them succeeded on the first try. My point is, if someone is truly bent on killing themselves they WILL find a way eventually. I say let them.

  28. A lot of people, including David Carradine, checked out via autoerotic asphyxiation. You can’t ban rope, and it’s probably less unpleasant. It’s also the talk of the town when it happens, and they will never have to worry abour being forgotten.

    Personally, I want to live as long as possible, like Dick Van Dyke or Angela Lansbury: older than dirt, but somehow still here.

    I own a firearm because I want to live, and defend myself against those who try to kill me. Owning a firearm does not make me suicidal any more than taking a firearm away from a suicidal person will prevent them from checking out another way.

    This Proposed law is the most retarded thing I ever heard. revoking your second amendment rights is like sending your daughter on a girl’s retreat with Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Clinton.

    • “A lot of people, including David Carradine, checked out via autoerotic asphyxiation.”

      Those people are looking for a high, not a way to die…

  29. “Sure, you can have ____, just sign this.” And just like that, half of the reason they want gun control takes care of itself.

  30. Someone needs to explain how restricting guns cures depression. How exactly does that happen physiologically, biologically? If it doesn’t, then next you’ll be hearing that the suicide rates haven’t changed but now everyone is overdosing on drugs, hanging themselves or jumping from buildings. People who really want to off themselves will find a way. Taking one method away and thinking the problem is cured, is just plain stupid.

  31. Suicide sucks. If anyone here is a survivor from a suicide, they’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a real bitch. Terrible thing to go through. I might joke about a lot of things here and seem heartless at times, but suicide is no joke and for survivors left behind, it’s a terrible ride.

    You know, it isn’t always a damn gun, a full bottle or Ritalin worked just dandy. If someone wants to off themselves, they’re going to do it.

  32. Everyone is talking about how you will get your name off the list. What are the odds the FBI will ever get you on the list, before you decide to go to see if they actually did? And if they didn’t and you off yourself, is the FBI now responsible for your death; because they failed to follow through on putting you on the list? You know it isn’t going to be instantaneously done. You might want your name off the list, before they ever get you on it.

  33. Life is a gift from God that no individual has created. No one knows what happens after you die. Hell is eternal. When you commit suicide your telling God you hate your life. How can you say oh God will just forgive? We do not know. Jesus said live your life for His sake you will find it. If you live your life for your sake you will lose it. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his eternal soul. Jesus said pick up your cross and follow him. Dont tell people it’s ok to commit suicide. Self murder is a sin you cannot repent from.

    • “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

      • Every time you repeat that, you just advertise your ignorance.

        The clear intent of Cain’s question is to obscure responsibility for his own evil choice by asking God whether he is responsible for his brother’s choices. The answer to the latter question is “no”, but Cain was nevertheless culpable because he TOOK AWAY his brother’s choices.

  34. Just like we saw with red flag laws, this foot in the door rapidly leads to an expansion of the list of circumstances in which a person’s rights can be revoked.

    It starts with “the individual can do it, voluntarily”. Then, oh, it only makes sense if we let family members nominate people to the list, they know people the best, right? Then it’s anyone with medical credentials, even if they’re just the random nurse working the ER that night. Then it’s your boss, the teacher at your kid’s school, that woman you went on one date with a year ago. Then the police are putting the form down in front of you and promising they’ll let you go home if you just sign it.

    Mission creep is a feature, not a bug. The point is to get their foot in the door so they can expand, and expand, and expand. Remember “just two weeks to stop the virus”?

  35. In theory, this seems like an okay thing.

    But knowing what we know about overzealous prosecutors and government ineptitude, I’m not sure I see it actually working well.

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