TALLAHASSEE — Call it the end of an era.
Marion Hammer, a titan of gun-rights advocacy who played an outsized role in shaping Florida’s gun laws as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, retired this week.
Hammer, 83, spent 44 years as a lobbyist for the NRA and served as the first woman president of the national gun-rights group. A fixture in the state Capitol whose tenacity and resolve defined her larger-than-life persona, Hammer earned a reputation as a no-nonsense advocate.
“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.
According to the announcement, Hammer will continue to serve as an adviser to the NRA “so our members can continue to benefit from her expertise and defense of their freedoms.”
Among the slew of gun-related measures that Hammer shepherded through the process over the years was the state’s 2005 “stand your ground” law.
The first of its kind in the nation, the law expanded the more-traditional “Castle Doctrine,” which allowed people to use deadly force to defend themselves in their homes, to more broadly say that people don’t have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
Roughly 35 years ago, Hammer pushed through a law requiring the state to issue concealed-weapon licenses to people who meet certain requirements. Every state in the nation now has a similar law on the books.
In a telephone interview with The News Service of Florida Thursday, Hammer called the “shall issue” license policy her biggest achievement.
“It was a turning point because people started realizing that government is supposed to follow the Constitution, and to take away your right and not give you the opportunity to exercise a right if they didn’t like you, was wrong. The law says that criminals can’t carry guns. So they were not issuing licenses to carry if they didn’t like you in some areas. If you’re not a criminal, and you’re not prohibited under federal law from owning or possessing a firearm, you should be able to get a license to carry concealed. It’s not at the whim of government. It’s a qualification issue,” Hammer said.
Republicans heaped praise on Hammer following the retirement announcement, with Senate President Wilton Simspon, R-Trilby, calling her a “friend and mentor to so many.”
But mirroring the polarizing nature of the larger debate over gun rights and gun control, Hammer’s exist also underscored how divisive she has been throughout the years.
“Marion Hammer has been a driving force to weaken Florida’s gun laws for decades, working to pass deadly policies and then conspiring with the NRA to extrapolate worst practices to other states,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a prepared statement Thursday. “But, ultimately, Moms Demand Action volunteers have outlasted Hammer. The movement for gun safety has never been stronger and our volunteers will continue to outwork and out-organize the gun lobby, and undo the damage they’ve done while saving lives.”
During a Friday visit to the state’s westernmost county, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial immigration bill (SB 1808) that will bar government agencies from contracting with transportation companies that bring undocumented immigrants into the state.
“This bill makes it clear that Florida resources will not be used to aid the Biden administration’s practice of secretly resettling illegal aliens into communities across Florida,” the governor’s office said in a news release Friday.
The bill also expands a 2019 law that sought to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Florida.
The measure drew controversy during the 2022 legislative session, in part, because it came as the DeSantis administration sought to shutter shelters that provide housing and other services to unaccompanied children whose immigration or refugee status is being processed after they enter the country.
“I am worried about the type of message we are sending with this anti-immigration bill being signed into law,” Rep. Marie Woodson, D-Hollywood, said in a statement Friday. “If the state is preventing Florida faith-based organizations from providing services to children in their care, then what next will the state decide to do in their gross overreach and prevent from happening? This law is inhumane and has no place in Florida.”
DeSantis also on Friday took a relatively unusual step in his continued efforts to rebuke the Biden administration’s border policies. The governor asked the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to probe issues such as the smuggling of undocumented immigrant children into the state.
DeSantis and his general counsel, Ryan Newman, filed a 12-page petition that also called for a grand jury to look into whether local governments are complying with requirements to transfer custody to the federal government of undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for crimes.
“Because the foregoing activities occur or have effects across the state, a statewide grand jury is an appropriate vehicle to examine these matters, to identify any deficiencies in current laws and enforcement methods and to recommend new or revised laws and enforcement methods,” the petition said.
Moving on … up?
State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican who is one of the chamber’s GOP leaders, said Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, and DeSantis quickly backed another candidate who launched a bid for the Southwest Florida district.
DeSantis endorsed Lee County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Martin, a personal injury attorney. The governor in a tweet called Martin “a conservative fighter” and threw his support behind the local party official.
For now, rumors are swirling that Rodrigues could be tapped for a lofty position in the state’s higher-education system. A joint statement from high-ranking Republicans, including Simpson, appeared to provide a hint that Rodrigues’ next move will be in the higher-education space.
“We are so pleased for the opportunity (Rodrigues) has to further ensure world class education opportunities for our students and look forward to his continued success,” the joint statement said.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Marion Hammer, a fierce gun-rights advocate whose career spanned almost half a century, retired from her post as the Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, the organization announced Thursday.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When people cannot support their personal feelings with facts and reality, they resort to personal attacks on other people. So when someone who supports gun control attacks me and blames me, they are diverting attention away from the fact that they’re wrong. They’re absolutely wrong. They don’t like guns. It’s not what they like. They cannot prove that guns are the problem. Because guns aren’t the problem. People are the problem, and they don’t want to admit it.” – Marion Hammer, the long-serving Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.