Various Proposals Aim to Address Mental Health Records, Protection Orders, and Firearm Carry Laws
In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a psychiatric hospital last year, New Hampshire lawmakers met on Friday to hear arguments in support of multiple bills. These proposed legislations target mental health records, protection orders, and firearm carry laws.
Kimberly Morin from the Women’s Defense League criticized the focus on “discriminatory gun confiscation bills” and urged lawmakers to address the serious mental health issues in the state.
‘Bradley’s Law’ Seeks to Submit Mental Health Records and Restore Gun Ownership Rights
One of the bills, known as ‘Bradley’s Law’ and backed by both parties, aims to resolve the issue of mental health records not being submitted to the database used for firearm background checks. Currently, federal law prevents individuals who have been involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions from purchasing guns.
‘Bradley’s Law’ would require the submission of mental health records and establish a process to restore gun ownership rights for individuals who are no longer a danger to themselves or others.
Survivor Recounts Horrific Experience of Psychiatric Hospital Shooting
Speaking on behalf of the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society, Swetter shared her terrifying experience during the shooting. She described hearing a scream and being informed about the incident by a colleague who sought refuge in her office. Due to a malfunctioning paging system, she was unable to warn others and spent an hour attempting to contact different departments.
Swetter emphasized the emotional toll of not being able to protect her colleagues, stating, “These people aren’t just people I work with, they’re my family, and I couldn’t tell them that they were in danger. It was genuinely one of the worst moments of my life, just not being able to protect people. I’m a healthcare professional to help people, and I couldn’t.”
Debate Surrounding Armed Hospital Workers and Gun Access
The individual responsible for the shooting was killed by a state trooper assigned to the hospital. Notably, the victim, Bradley Haas, was unarmed. Opponents of the bill argued that arming workers like the state trooper would save more lives than restricting access to firearms.
Some opponents raised concerns that the bill’s scope could extend to individuals hospitalized for mental health conditions unrelated to violence. They also contended that it would not effectively prevent criminals from obtaining guns.
“Rather than pushing more discriminatory gun confiscation bills, why don’t we actually do something to address the serious mental health issues we have?” asked Kimberly Morin from the Women’s Defense League.
Other Bills Address Gun Storage, Domestic Violence Protective Orders, and Voluntary Background Checks
In addition to ‘Bradley’s Law,’ the committee heard public testimonies on several other bills. One proposed legislation seeks to make it easier for gun owners to store their firearms in their cars while at work. Another bill aims to streamline the process for individuals under domestic violence protective orders to reclaim their weapons.
Furthermore, the committee considered a bill that would allow gun owners to voluntarily add themselves to the federal background check database. Supporters believe this could assist individuals who have contemplated suicide in the past and wish to ensure their own safety moving forward.
Rep. David Mueuse, the sponsor of the latter bill, emphasized that taking this step could remove the most common form of suicide from the table for individuals who request it.
Personal Testimony Highlights Importance of Voluntary Background Check Bill
Donna Morin, who tragically lost her 21-year-old son to suicide in 2022, spoke before the committee. She acknowledged that the bill would not have saved her son’s life, but stressed its potential to save others, including herself.
Morin candidly shared, “The pain that I feel every single day has brought me to thoughts of suicide. I’m speaking publicly about this, even though it’s terrifying, because I really feel that this bill is that important. The goal of this bill is to allow a person like myself to make a decision when they are in a calm mind and not in emotional distress.”
She drew a parallel between the bill and creating a living will to express preferences in end-of-life situations where one cannot speak for themselves.
“You’re asking what kind of person would do it? It would be me,” she affirmed. “I don’t want to have a moment of weakness where I can’t see that life’s not worth living, because it is.”