A legend of Florida politics has called it quits. Marion Hammer, the decades-long lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Tallahassee and a past president of the gun rights’ group, announced her retirement after 44 years.
“It has been an honor to serve NRA members as state lobbyist in Florida. Above all, it’s been my privilege to serve and to fight alongside great warriors for our cause like [NRA CEO] Wayne [LaPierre], without whom many of our nation’s self-defense laws would not have been possible,” Hammer said, according to the right-leaning Capitolist in Tallahassee.
“When I was first hired in September 1978, I was given one mission – ‘Do what you need to do, but do not let Florida become another California.’ For 44 years, I am proud to say that I faithfully delivered on that assignment with the help of our great NRA members.”
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Hammer’s influence on gun politics was far more outsized than her diminutive 5-foot frame.
She was a pivotal and relentless defender of the Second Amendment, frequently pilloried by the gun-grabbers after each new tragedy – which, in almost all cases, were committed by people who were not stopped by the mounting encroachments on constitutional rights.
Hammer, now 83, said she became an pro-gun activist because of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968.
Ironically, that federal law banned many of the issues that have been revived during the current debate over guns. That 1968 law banned the mail-order sales of guns, as well as purchases of firearms by people under 18 or pistols to those under 21, convicted felons, criminal fugitives, drug addicts, and the mentally ill.
Yet Hammer thought it was an overreach.
In a 2018 interview, she told WLRN in Miami that the law “angered me beyond belief because our government, that is supposed to protect us and our rights, decided to engage in some political eyewash. They wanted to pass a piece of legislation to make themselves feel good because we had had some tragic assassinations (John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy) that had nothing to do with guns, but with people.”
That law, she added, “started waking people up to the arrogance of government to trample the rights of law-abiding citizens who had done nothing wrong, to make themselves feel like they were doing something.”
“From that point on, I never really got out of doing everything I could to protect those rights to see to it that that sort of thing didn’t happen again.”
In 1996, shortly after she took the helm of the NRA after the previous president died, she told The New York Times, “It truly is not guns that kill people. Individuals do.” When the Times asked how the nation could solve violent crime, Hammer replied, “Get rid of all liberals?”
“She smiles as she says it,” the Times noted, “to show she is joking, mostly.”
Over her long career, Hammer was instrumental in convincing state lawmakers to adopt some of the most pivotal gun rights’ laws in America: Florida’s 1987 measure that allowed concealed carry, and the 2005 Stand Your Ground statute.
The former law came of Hammer’s “lived experience,” as liberals like to say.
According to the Times, Hammer left work late one night in 1986. In a parking garage, she was accosted by six men in a car who began yelling obscenities at her.
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“I felt sure I was going to die, or be left in a condition where I would have wished I had died,” she recalled.
As the Times reported, “Instead of running, she reached into her handbag for her six-shot .38-caliber revolver and stepped up to the car, between the headlights. The driver slammed the car in reverse and careened wildly backward through the parking deck and into the street.”
The NRA. she told the Times, teaches people “to do what she did, to not be a victim.”
In that 2018 interview, WLRN asked Hammer the secret to her lobbying success.
“Being successful involves believing in what you’re doing, because if you don’t believe in it, you’re not going to care to the depths of which you need to care to get it done. You have to have focus. You have to do your research. You need to have your facts, and you have to believe in what you’re doing. People who don’t believe in what they’re doing rarely give it the dedication an issue deserves,” she replied.
“I’m not a hired gun. I am privileged to be paid to do a job that I love doing. And I am successful because I care, because the people with whom I work know that I care. They know that I’m going to tell them the truth, even if it hurts me, and that I’m not going to quit. So it’s from that backdrop that I approach every issue.”
“Marion Hammer’s name has become synonymous with the Second Amendment and with the NRA. She is a dynamic and legendary advocate who has led the way with many laws that started in Florida and then served as a blueprint across the country,” NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre said in a statement Thursday announcing Hammer’s retirement.
“For more than 40 years, I have been in the trenches with Marion for landmark fights, including Right-to-Carry, Castle Doctrine and other life-saving, pro-hunting and pro-Second Amendment laws. I am grateful that Marion will stay on as an advisor to the Association – so our members can continue to benefit from her expertise and defense of their freedoms.”