Florida’s Circus

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I am an NRA member. That does not mean that I always and whole-heartedly endorse its every move. Reasonable people sometimes disagree, but when we do, we do so in a civil and thoughtful manner.

Meet Marion Hammer, First Female President of the NRA

If anyone doubts the clout of the five-million-member organization or the energy of its grassroots leadership, they only need to meet Marion Hammer. The first female president of the NRA (1995-98), Hammer is the NRA spokeswoman and lobbyist in Florida … and she is effective.

The colorful seal of the state of Florida

Florida is a leader in the concealed carry movement. A great deal of that leadership is a result of the lobbying efforts of Marion Hammer, the first female president of the NRA.

She is also a certified firearms instructor. It was Hammer who “lobbied for and eventually pushed through” (New York Times) a 1987 Florida law that allows Floridians who “have no criminal records or mental illness” to carry concealed weapons with permits.

Hammer followed up in 2011 when the Florida Legislature passed a preemption statute: Only the state could regulate firearms and ammunition, considered a constitutionally protected area. Penalties were imposed on offending governmental entities and on individual public officials. The $5,000 fines came with possible removal from office for individuals who willfully and knowingly violated the preemption law by adopting local gun-control ordinances.

Patchwork Gun Restrictions

If you’re Floridian, you might have received Hammer’s recent emails about a Leon County Circuit Court judge who has effectively given tacit approval for local government officials to “knowingly and willfully violate” Florida’s preemption law by striking down the penalty provisions in FL Statute 790.33. The message, says Hammer, is, “Go ahead and violate the law; the state can’t punish you.” During court arguments in June, Daniel Bell, attorney for the state, argued that the law prevented a “patchwork regulatory scheme” of gun restrictions.

The Florida Circuit Court is the “general jurisdiction trial court” for the State of Florida. It hears civil disputes and criminal matters and may hear appeals from county courts. The sitting judge in this egregious case (Weston v. DeSantis) was one Charles W. Dodson. (Hammer refused to name him in her “Florida Alert!” emails, thus keeping the argument a matter of law and not personality. This writer believes that in this case, and in so many others, the two can often not be separated. America’s judges continuously legislate “from the bench,” confusing their judicial duties with those of the legislature.)

Protect Your Gun Rights

In its opposition brief, the NRA, through Hammer, argued, “It is a bedrock principle of American constitutional law that local governments have no legal authority to defy the will of their creator: the state.” Nevertheless, Dodson found the 2011 law unconstitutional. 

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a notice of appeal to the First District Court of Appeals.

Summarizing the urgency of the appeal, Hammer wrote, “Be aware: Without penalty provisions, the only recourse against willful violations of law which infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens is for citizens or organizations to file expensive lawsuits against public officials to enforce the law. Then, law-breaking officials use tax dollars — YOUR MONEY — to defend themselves for violating the law. Local governments use the ‘bottomless pit’ of tax dollars while citizens must spend their own money to protect their rights.”

Cut through popular gun myths with the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Facts and Fiction page

About Rick Sapp

Rick Sapp earned his Ph.D. in social anthropology after his time in the U.S. Army working for the 66th Military Intelligence Group, USAREUR, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following his time in Paris, France, he worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing. Along with being published in several newspapers and magazines, Rick has authored more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.