A New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday drew heated debate and emotional testimony as the panel considered a gun control measure addressing mental health concerns.

HB 1711, named in honor of an unarmed New Hampshire Hospital security guard gunned down last November by a former psychiatric patient, drew supportive testimony from several mental health professionals who were present the day Bradley Haas was shot.

“It’s the reason we’re here. It was on Nov. 17, 2023, shortly after 3 p.m., when I heard a scream, and someone ran into my office,” recalled Dr. Samantha Swetter, the Concord-based hospital’s associate medical director. All I heard was, ‘Active shooter, call 911.’

“He was murdered less than a hundred feet from my office. If this bill had existed then, maybe that tragedy would never have happened.”

The hospital lobby shooting resulted in Haas, former chief of police in Franklin, being killed by former patient John Madore. Madore was later killed by a state trooper assigned to the hospital.

Haas was unarmed.

Critics of the bill say it puts the burden on legal gun owners rather than bad actors who use guns, and that it won’t solve the problem at hand.

“Nobody seems to have asked the question — why was the chief that the bill is named after unarmed?” asked Warner resident James Gaffney. “Was he prohibited by the hospital?

“Because at the end of the day, nothing that any of you pass is going to prevent a bad person from doing harm to you except you.”

The legislation would “authorize the state to report mental health data for firearms background check purposes” and would set in motion “processes for the confiscation of firearms following certain mental health-related court proceedings and for relief from mental health-related firearms disabilities.”

State Rep. JR Hoell (R-Dunbarton), who voted against the proposal when it passed the House in March on a 204-149 vote, told the committee the legislation amounts to a “never let a crisis go to waste” bill.

“Instead of addressing the real issue at hand – mental health – this bill tries to expand gun control,” Hoell said. “If 47 cars drive off a cliff, it doesn’t mean the next three should as well.”

New Hampshire is currently one of three states that do not report individual mental health data to the FBI’s federal background database. Tuesday’s legislation has attracted support from a large group of pro-gun GOP lawmakers.

In the House, 25 Republicans joined Democrats in passing the bill. One of those Republicans is state Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Windham).

“I think this is the first time in my life that I can recall testifying in favor of a firearms law,” Lynn told the committee.

Lynn disagreed with the claim that the bill would create a “red flag law” in New Hampshire.

“This allows firearms to be taken away if a court has already made a determination by clear and convincing evidence that a person is dangerous and generally that the person needs to be involuntarily committed,” he added.

A leading co-sponsor of the House bill, state Rep. David Meuse (D-Portsmouth), made it clear that the killing of Haas directly inspired the bill.

“Contrary to what you might have heard, the bill does not sweep up anyone and everyone who has ever been treated for a mental illness,” Meuse said. “The bill is also explicitly written so people who voluntarily seek treatment and people who have been hospitalized during a temporary mental health crisis are not reported either.”

State Rep. Cyril Aures (R-Chichester) was unconvinced and deployed some stinging rhetoric in an effort to make his point.

“I just want you to know that I’m a white extremist, and I believe that I’m in jeopardy of losing my Second Amendment rights under this bill,” Aures quipped. “I’m a guy a former president says is dangerous: I cling to my guns and my religion.

“This isn’t a mental health bill; this is a red flag law.”

State Rep. Daniel Popovici-Muller (R-Windham), who immigrated to the U.S. from Romania during the country’s strict communist rule, heard echoes of the totalitarianism his family fled.

“It takes constitutional rights away from people who did not commit a crime,” he said. “I’ve seen plenty of political dissidents placed in mental hospitals under false claims that they were mentally ill because the state wanted to discredit them.

“We’re now opening the door for anybody to be called ‘crazy’ for political reasons and have their rights taken away from them.”

Meanwhile, Portsmouth resident Kathleen Slover, a member of the anti-gun violence Moms Demand Action, told the committee her written testimony focuses on the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

“A few years later, Virginia finally did what we asked New Hampshire to do,” Slover said.

Kim Morin, president of the New Hampshire Women’s Defense League, wasted no time expressing her opposition.

“The only thing that should be done (for the bill) is to be voted inexpedient to legislate and then tossed in the trash,” Morin said. “The only logical legislation that should have come out of that (Haas) tragedy would be to arm hospital security guards.”

Morin also took aim at testimony from members of the New Hampshire psychiatric community who voiced support for the proposal.

“If someone is such a danger to the public, then why aren’t they staying in a mental health facility until they are well?” Morin asked. “I also find it ironic that the very same people who testified in support of this bill from the psychiatric industry are the same people who got all of the mental health institutions shut down back in the 1970s and 1980s.

“They screwed it up, and now we’re the ones paying the price. Let’s actually address the mental health needs of Granite Staters; let’s do that for a change.”

As of the close of Tuesday’s hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee had yet to vote on whether to recommend passage of the bill.