U.S. -NRA official Marion Hammer should shut up already about gun safety in Florida – By Mohamed Hamaludin

– By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Here is a bit of unsolicited advice for Marion Hammer: SHUT UP ALREADY!

Hammer is the Florida strategist for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and, in the midst of a national crisis over mass shootings, this is her response, according to Newsweek, to a Florida petition drive to ban assault weapons: “How do you tell a 10-year-old little girl who got a Ruger 10/22 with a pink stock for her birthday that her rifle is an assault weapon and she has to turn it over to the government or be arrested for felony possession?”

And this also, according to the Tampa Bay Times: Gun safety measures would severely affect the fortunes of gun manufacturers lured by the state to set up shop in Florida.       

“[Then] Gov. Rick Scott and Enterprise Florida solicited and offered significant financial incentives to gun manufacturers to come to Florida and bring more jobs,” she said. The South Florida Sun Sentinel, citing figures from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, reported that firearms makers in Florida produced 729,064 guns in 2016 — the fifth most in the nation — employing 7,000 people and with a $1 billion economic impact on the state.

Still, the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, which killed 49 people and wounded 53 others, the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018, killing 17 people, 14 of them high school students, and wounding 17 others, together with the failure of the Republican-dominated Legislature to pass gun safety laws, led to a petition drive by Ban Assault Weapons which has collected more than 100,000 signatures so far. The initiative became even more urgent after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

In all those tragedies, the terrorists used assault-type weapons. But newly minted Attorney General Alex Moody has gone to court to challenge the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment which seeks to ban sales of such firearms and require current owners to register them or turn them in. A Quinnipiac University Poll recently found that 59 percent of Floridians support such ban.

Hammer, who is nearing 80, is regarded as the chief lobbyist for the NRA, with a 40-year membership. Armed with a list of 300,000 NRA members, Hammer keeps politicians under control by threatening to field challenges to incumbents who do not toe the line. “They are a politically active voting bloc with whom Hammer frequently communicates through e-mail,” Miami New Times reported. “Using supercharged, provocative language, she keeps her followers apprised of who has been ‘loyal’ to the Second Amendment and who has committed unforgivable betrayals.” She has literally written pro-gun bills for some lawmakers, including, Miami New Times said, Dennis Baxley, an Ocala senator who terms himself a “proud Confederate descendant.” Those measures included the original text of the 2005 stand-your-ground law.

Still, Rolling Stone reported, Florida ranks just 24th in the nation in gun ownership, with less than one-third of Floridians owning a gun. The 300,000-strong membership, FLoridaPolitics.com writer Joe Henderson noted sarcastically, is “a whopping 1.5 percent of the population.”

That has not prevented Hammer from becoming perhaps the biggest force in the gun rights movement. David Cole, in his book “Engines of Liberty,” even credits her with being responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns. The NRA pays her handsomely, according to The Miami Herald, including $270,000 in 2018 for her lobbying efforts against the assault ban proposed by Parkland students and Democrats, plus more than $500,000 between 2014 and 2016. The Herald said she did not report those payments to the state.

Gun rights lobbying is even more lucrative for another NRA leader, vice president and chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre, who is paid $1.37 million and $67,289 in other compensation. He is under scrutiny over his stewardship of the NRA, particularly over an aborted plan to buy himself a $6 million mansion with NRA funds, along with lavish expenditure by him and his wife. Reports also link the NRA to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including perhaps $70 million in campaign contributions. The group’s now shaky finances led to a confrontation between LaPierre and the president, Oliver North of Iran-Contra infamy, resulting in North’s being forced to resign.

Much of the group’s finances comes from its five million members who pay a fee of between $75 and $150. Members have also been scared into donating millions more after alarmist claims that someone is coming for their guns. Members donated $2.4 million just in March 2018 alone, with 80 percent of the donations being $200 or less, when they were told about a possible crackdown on assault weapons after the Parkland shooting.

Still, polls indicate growing support in Florida and nationally not just for a ban on assault weapons but also universal background checks for those wanting to buy guns, both anathema to LaPierre and Hammer. This is unlikely to diminish the shrillness coming from them but, with more and more Americans being slaughtered in mass shootings, their rantings are sounding really hollow, perhaps even to NRA members.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On August 22, 2019 at 3:17 am

    USA culture of guns drug death !
    Say no more !

    Is it capitalism gone mad ?

    Money their gods ….

    Sad !

    Kamtan

  • IAN A NASCIMENTO  On August 22, 2019 at 10:49 am

    NO! IT IS SOCIALISM GONE MAD WITH PEOPLE LIKE YOU. THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS WHAT PROTECTS US FROM PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

    • kamtanblog  On August 22, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Banning is not solution !
      Regulate/control laws need updating/changing

      USA political dilemma !

      Kamtan

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