Cobleigh kept the session going while he tried to figure out what the hell to do. His sergeant-at-arms, Lloyd Fogg of Milan, was 86 years old and likely wasn’t going to be much help. Frantically, the speaker placed an emergency telephone call to Gov. Walter Peterson. He quickly made the governor aware of the situation and asked if there was any law preventing Cap from carrying a gun into the Statehouse.
The governor conferred with Attorney General Warren Rudman and found out the answer was no. While there was certainly a law against killing the speaker of the house, there was no law against having guns in the Statehouse. The New Hampshire Constitution also prevented a representative from being arrested in the Legislature. Rudman sent State Police Col. Joseph Regan into the House, who, in time, managed to talk Mr. Gay into surrendering his pistol.
The story of Cap Gay and the gun is recorded in Marshall Cobleigh’s 2005 biography, “We Aren’t Making Sausages Here.” There is a letter in the Derry News in which Cap said that all those rumors about his disturbing the House were wildly exaggerated and nothing really happened. Who’s right? I really don’t know. All the principal actors in this drama are now gone. Cap Gay died in 1973, Cobleigh in 2009, Peterson in 2011 and Rudman in 2012.
I do know that anti-gun legislation was enacted in Concord in 1971 — about the same time Cobleigh said the disruption happened and about the same time Cap Gay said it didn’t.
Rick Holmes is the official town historian of Derry. His office hours at the Municipal Center are Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. Several of his books on local history are available at Mack’s Apples and Derry’s libraries.