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Bradley’s Law debated in N.H., with hospital shooting memories still fresh

House Bill 1711 would authorize New Hampshire to send data to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System regarding certain mental health adjudications

Police stand at the entrance to New Hampshire Hospital, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in Concord, N.H. A fatal shooting at the New Hampshire psychiatric hospital Friday ended with the suspect dead, police said. New Hampshire Hospital is the state psychiatric hospital, located in the state’s capital city.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Dr. Samantha K. Swetter’s voice tightened with emotion Friday as she recounted for state lawmakers the terror that unfolded inside New Hampshire Hospital on Nov. 17, when a former patient fatally shot an unarmed security officer in the lobby.

“I heard a scream,” she said, “and someone sprinted into my office.”

Swetter, who serves as associate medical director for the state-run psychiatric hospital in Concord, said the woman slammed her office door, hid, and told her to call 911 to report an active shooter. Swetter made the call, then realized there had been no building-wide announcement about the unfolding incident.

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“No one else in this building, where there’s hundreds of employees, knew what was happening. And everyone was in danger,” she said. “So I tried to call the paging system, and it was down. We couldn’t notify anyone.”

For the next hour, Swetter said, she experienced one of the worst moments of her life, as she struggled to directly alert as many colleagues as she could.

“These people aren’t just people I work with,” she said. “They’re my family.”

After employees were evacuated, they learned security officer Bradley T. Haas, 63, had succumbed to his injuries. Haas, who previously served as Franklin police chief, was working for the New Hampshire Department of Safety as an unarmed guard. He was someone many hospital employees saw every day, Swetter said.

“A coworker was murdered 100 feet from my office … and then I had to sit there while other people I love were in danger, and I could do very little to help them,” she said.

Swetter told her story while testifying before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in favor of a bipartisan proposal now known as Bradley’s Law. If something like it had been on the books, it might have averted this tragedy, she said.

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The proposal, House Bill 1711, would authorize New Hampshire to send data to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System regarding certain mental health adjudications. That way, a NICS background check could block certain firearm sales to those who may be a danger to themselves or others based on adjudications that already render them federally ineligible to buy or possess guns.

Court records show John Madore, the former patient who shot Haas, had been involuntarily admitted in 2016 and had his guns seized. Investigators have been reviewing where he may have gotten his guns. Madore, 33, was fatally shot in the lobby by a nearby state trooper.

Lawmakers also heard pushback on Friday.

“The only thing that this bill will do is dismantle law-abiding Granite Staters’ rights to privacy, and disincentivize them from exercising their Second Amendment rights,” said Angelo Veltri, a regional director for the National Association for Gun Rights.

Representative J.R. Hoell, a Republican from Dunbarton who opposes HB 1711 as introduced, said lawmakers should focus their energy on investigating why a public servant like Haas was disarmed, and on meeting the needs of people with mental illness.

“These people need our help,” he said. “They don’t need to have their firearms restricted. … The way we help them is to give them the residential care that they need.”

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Hoell is cosponsoring a related proposal, House Bill 1701, to outline a path to petition for annulment of involuntary mental health commitment records.


Steven Porter can be reached at steven.porter@globe.com. Follow him @reporterporter.