LET’S DO SOMETHING: Martha Fuller Clark And Burt Cohen Started The Discussion A Decade Ago

Mike Huckabee says it's a “God” issue.  He says that by taking God out of schools — which is a lie, since anyone can pray anytime, anywhere — and religion out of public dialogue — another lie — that we encourage killings.  We can expect Pat Robinson to chime in soon, as he did by accusing President Barack Obama of fulfilling his socialist dreams by letting us get close to the fiscal cliff. 

These spokespeople for the NRA — the organization that makes big bucks by getting gun owners to fear confiscation (for which no one is calling) — will scare many a-political leader from even wanting to open the discussion.  We've gone through this before — college kids are shot, a high school becomes a battle ground, a Member of Congress is shot along with aides and volunteers and constituents wanting to talk with her – and our concern peaks, then fades. 

We can't let that happen this time.  THIS TIME, with President Obama's words of passion and compassion, we need to get serious about having the dialogue.  And the dialogue is simple:  let's talk about setting up a responsible, reasonable process for owning weapons that shoot things into people. 

I had to add “Motorcycle Operator” to my nearly 50-year old drivers license this year.  The process I had to undergo was much more extensive than if I had wanted to buy and use a gun or rifle, for any reason. 

I had to visit the motor vehicles offices three times — once to apply, once to take a written test to get my learner's permit, then another time a few weeks later to take my practical operator's test.  It wasn't easy, but I was asking to be put into control of a vehicle that I could kill someone with, or get killed.  I didn't complain.  I didn't think my rights were being challenged. 


In 2001 and 2002, then-N.H. House member Martha Fuller Clark, and then-State Senator Burt Cohen, co-sponsored three bills.  One was Senate Bill 376, requiring a mental health review for gun applicants. Another was House Bill 427 calling for limitations on Saturday Night Specials.

A third, primarily sponsored by Rep. Fuller Clark, was HB 736, creating a “Firearm's Protection Act.” It was one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation, and would have set up a responsible, yet simple process for gun ownership.  The procedure it created wasn't complicated, and didn't take guns away from legitimate owners.

But the bill created a major firestorm in the legislature, and many likely supporters backed down by the time it got to the House floor. It was killed 324 to 35.  Voting for it was one of the best votes I've ever made. 

Martha Fuller Clark was courageous and ahead of her time in sponsoring that bill — as was Burt Cohen with his co-sponsorship. It was used against her when she ran for Congress, but they both helped open the discussion on this issue — which must continue.

Those bills still remain online on the State of New Hampshire Legislative WEBSITE.  They need to be dusted off, perhaps updated a bit, and the discussion needs to be held. 

The foresight of good Democrats like Martha Fuller Clark and Burt Cohen has to continue — statewide, and nationally. We can't be afraid of talking about this issue.

It's time. It's late, but it's time. 

  • Dartmouth Dem

    I was having lunch with Dick yesterday when we first heard about this senseless tragedy. And I thanked him for having the courage to lay down his seat in Congress so that, in President Clinton’s works, kids and cops wouldn’t have to lay down their lives under a hale of assault weapons fire. If only other elected officials had Dick’s strength.

    After Dick’s tie-breaking vote for the 1994 assault weapons ban, violent crimes committed by these killing machines declined by nearly 20% during the life of the ban, which President Bush and the GOP Congress allowed to sunset in 2004. Why did it end? Because the NRA feels that criminals and crazy people should be allowed to buy automatic and semi-automatic weapons with absolutely no government control. And the gun lobby is so strong that even the gun show loophole remains open. Ridiculous.

    It’s time to call out the gun lobby on their tired old scare tactics. Would an assault weapons ban and legitimate background checks hurt hunters? No, not real hunters. Would arming more people limit gun violence? Not unless you want to start arming kindergardeners. Would banning armor piercing bullets restrict the 2nd Amendment? REALLY???? How many moose where bulletproof vests?

    It won’t be easy — Dick learned that after he became the first federal elected official from New Hampshire to vote for gun control (Brady Law, too). Back then, New Hampshire’s 2nd CD had the highest NRA membership of any congressional district outside of Alaska, and even some leading Democrats ran for the hills rather than standing with Dick. The gun lobby has a lot of money, and they get nasty.

    Columbine. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Newton. And so many nameless tragedies more.

    It’s time.  

    • Rep. Jim Splaine

      He showed national leadership at a time we needed it.  And it was used against him in his next election.  

      Many have worked on this cause for decades — and quite a few have been defeated at the polls by the “powerful” NRA — only powerful in the fear they convey at the polls.  

      Simple, reasonable laws are killed by the NRA because they want to sell more guns.  It’s greed at its worse.  

      Dick Swett, Martha Fuller Clark, Burt Cohen, and others will always be my heroes on this issue — and we should stand behind them in whatever they continue to do.  

    • JonnyBBad
  • BurtCohen

    We have some great voices in Washington now, Ayotte is obviously not one of them. Letters, emails, calls should flood her office demanding sensible realistic new anti-massacre (a more useful phrase than “gun control”) laws. In the past the NRA has been louder, though they are always fewer in number. Now we must change that. Now is the time. And keep the pressure on the president, obviously.  

  • political chowder
  • tchair

    Should anyone own a firearm ?

    Should anyone that owns a firearm own any kind of a weapon ?

    No to either one of these questions means you believe in gun control !

  • BurtCohen

    A well-regulated militia.

    This is NOT well regulated.

    The second amendment does not protect anyone’s “right” to own an assault weapon or large magazine cartridge.

    If you believe in the Constitution, you believe in 21st century gun control.  

    • Rep. Jim Splaine

      “If you believe in the Constitution, you believe in 21st century gun control.”

      That is a statement that has to be repeated often — so that even the Tea Partiers hear it.

      Good job, Burt.  Let’s educate.  I think there are millions in this country who have heard of the term “Second Amendment” but have never actually heard the language or read it.  

      One man I talked with a few days ago said he thought the amendment said “Americans can buy and keep guns of any kind.”  When I told him what it says, he asked what a “militia” is.  Seriously.  He didn’t have any idea, and it isn’t a word we use a lot nowadays.  He still didn’t believe me, but then admitted he never has read any of the Constitution.  

  • BobRobertson

    If licensing hasn’t stopped traffic fatalities, how can we expect it to stop firearms fatalities?

    • xteeth

      individual’s attraction to cars is not the kind of idolatrous fascination possessed by gunsels. Cars are mostly practical items that enable people to do the kind of things of which society approves. Almost no one hunts for food any more and most of that is done at Hannaford’s or Shaw’s. Automobile deaths are an incidental side effect of cars performing their intended function to their owners. Guns kill, mame and wound the things that they shoot as a purpose. Getting rid of cars would cause vast upset to our society and economy, getting rid of guns would mightily upset a number of fearful, paranoid fetishists but have no noticeable economic effect except to gun manufacturers. Those that enjoy safe use of firearms may just have to bite this particular bullet. That inconvenience in no way matches up to the desire of feeling humans not to have children mowed down by insane citizens.

      Not to indicate that this was a serious question from a thinking blogger.

      • BobRobertson

        How would you know, have you interviewed all 100 million gun owners?

        • xteeth

          like yours which is universal in books, on TV, on news shows and blogs. It is boring, contains fact free statements and falsehoods and distortions that would make the rubber lady proud. Perhaps this time the stupidity of stuff like guns don’t kill people will finally get the grand guffaw that they deserve. Anti-community and anti intellectualism takes many forms in order to dupe the willing and this is a particularly odious version.

  • tchair

    I love it when cars or rocks or knives are just as good as guns at killing people  ….. When a gun nut says this we should tell then “WELL I GUESS YOU DON’T NEED A GUN THEN DO YOU!”

    • BurtCohen

      Watch Close Up this Sunday at 10.I did OK, but the woman who spoke for the NRA is our best ally for making real changes. Arm the teachers, her solution.

      • Dartmouth Dem

        My wife is a fifth grade teacher. She should be able to help children — and raise children — in a society where insane criminals cannot order semi-automatic weapons and high capacity clips without a background check.  

        • BobRobertson

          It has been since 1968, nation wide.

          • Rep. Jim Splaine

            …and “gun shows” are the way around any kind of background check we now have.  

            By tracking the guns — and having tracking of bullets — we can do a better job of making checks, as well as including “gun shows,” which is just another form of gun profiteering.

            Yes, there are a lot of guns already out there.  And yes, there will always be ways to get illegal guns without checks.  But in 25 years, if we don’t act today the problem will be worse.  And in 50 years, even worse.  

Site maintenance and hosting by Hoeferweb