The NRA’s waning reign?

November 26, 2018 7:00 am
knotted gun

Knotted gun sculpture, New York City. Pixabay photo

You probably noticed that Florida recently held an election, complete with the usual bad ballots, recounts and lawsuits. You may not have noticed that a federal judge just slapped down the lamentable Marion Hammer, doyenne of the National Rifle Association, dismissing part of a lawsuit she filed against people who sent hateful, possibly threatening, messages to her after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in February. The Hammer’s loss in court may be a harbinger of more defeats to come.

Back in July, the Hammer demanded millions of dollars in damages against four men. One guy hoped someone would “put 100 bullets between your eyes” while another allegedly said, “I seriously hope karma comes around for you soon.”

Not very nice, but then you’d figure this kind of unpleasantness comes with the territory for the woman who’d like to see guns in elementary schools, guns on college campuses, guns in the grocery store, in church, on the street, at the ball game, in church, in bars, on golf courses, at Easter egg hunts, bar mitzvahs, book club meetings, quilting circles–guns everywhere!

What’s she scared of? The Hammer, as she often makes clear, is armed to the molars.

Of course, there’s something logically unsustainable and not a little stupid about people who hate guns wishing gun violence on a gun nut, but that’s the Internet for you. Still, it’s quite satisfying to see US District Judge Robert Hinkle dismiss the case brought against a California lawyer, Lawrence Sorensen (other parts of the suit are pending). Sorensen didn’t threaten the Hammer with grievous bodily harm, he just sent images of gunshot wounds.  In other words, he confronted her with reality. Hinkle allowed as how the pictures might be “disgusting,” but they’re protected speech.

The Hammer, described in her lawsuit as a “79 year-old grandmother and civil rights advocate,” is used to getting what she wants. The NRA’s first female president between 1995-1998, Florida has been her heat-packing fiefdom for decades. Elected officials are terrified of her and the emails she fires off, as a recent Tampa Bay Times story shows. She demands state agencies do something about spam, explain why some guy didn’t get his concealed carry permit renewed, and take down a notice in the Punta Gorda Licensing Office forbidding cell phones, cameras and “unlawful weapons.” In 2017, she got hot and bothered about a Tampa animal shelter caring for South Korean rescue dogs which might bring “diseases” to decent American hunting dogs.

Legislators present bills to her before anyone else sees them, and seek her blessing. She, in turn, is behind some of Florida’s most atrocious gun-happy policies. Along with state senator and funeral director Dennis Baxley (who could be said to have a certain economic interest in death), she helped craft Florida’s notorious 2005 “Stand Your Ground” legislation: you know, the “Black-folk-scare-me-so-I’m-shooting!” law. She’s also behind the idiotic 2011 “Docs vs. Glocks” statute, subsequently struck down in federal court, forbidding doctors to ask their patients if they have guns in the home.

But Florida may no longer be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA, and the Hammer may not be able to terrorize elected officials into doing her bidding every time. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who ran for governor as a “proud NRA sell-out” and lost, leaves office in January. His replacement, Democrat Nikki Fried, beat the NRA’s preferred candidate. Fried, a gun owner, sent the Hammer a letter declaring, “I won’t be beholden to you.”

Florida voters banned greyhound racing in a ballot initiative declaring “the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people.” The Hammer opposed the ban, claiming that next thing you know, the liberals, feminists and gays will ban hunting and fishing. And while anti-NRA gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum narrowly lost to the tantrum-prone, NRA-endorsed, Ron DeSantis, Gillum’s huge coalition of Floridians demanding serious background checks and sensible gun regulation isn’t going away.

The same educated suburbanites becoming increasingly disgusted with the vulgar autocrat in the White House–as demonstrated in the midterms, returning Democrats to control in the House of Representatives–are also becoming disgusted by the NRA. When the barrel-polishers club warned “self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane” just as the CDC announced a rise in the number of gun deaths nation-wide, doctors jumped on Twitter with “We are not anti-gun, we are anti-bullet holes in our patients,” “you’re welcome to come along the next time I have to tell a mother her child has been shot and killed,” and (from a forensic pathologists in San Francisco) “do you know how many bullets I pull out of cadavers weekly? This isn’t just my lane, this is my F-n highway.”

Of course, Marion Hammer will continue to command influence over the craven new governor of this state and both its cowardly Republican senators. But Florida is changing. In the wake of the shootings at the Pulse night club, the high school in Parkland, the yoga studio in Tallahassee, and all the other senseless murders carried out by rage-driven gun freaks, she may find herself on the outside more than ever, a relic of a violent, hateful past many of us want to leave behind.


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Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo.