Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association's longtime lobbyist in Florida, basically runs a portion of the state Legislature. She quite literally writes huge portions of state gun laws and commands a cadre of followers whom she orders to vote against those who cross her. She is notorious in Florida political circles for calling lawmakers traitors to the Constitution.
If you employ her own verbal tactics against her and, say, email her to fuck off, she will apparently sue you into the ground. Take, for instance, 66-year-old Miami-Dade resident Brian Fitzgerald. In a series of emails he began sending February 18, Fitzgerald called her a "dyspeptic old bag" and said she was working to get people killed.
Hammer, who has spent decades making it easier for people to obtain guns and regularly calls on her followers to criticize politicians, is now suing Fitzgerald in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee for claims of harassment, cyberstalking, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Last week, she also sued five other Floridians in federal court — including one person who emailed her a series of gory images of victims of gun violence.
But in her lawsuit against Fitzgerald, who lives in South Miami-Dade County, Hammer appears to be suing him simply for emailing her a few curse words.
Fitzgerald "has transcended mere criticism and has employed threats, harassment, and personal abuse to try to humiliate and intimidate Hammer in a manner that is utterly intolerable in a civilized community," Hammer's suit reads.
Reached by phone, Fitzgerald said he plans to fight the lawsuit but would not comment further until speaking with a lawyer. According to the suit, it seems Fitzgerald became upset after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting February 14 and sent Hammer a series of five emails beginning four days after the massacre. There's no denying Fitzgerald's emails were caustic — he tells her to rot in Hell and that she is helping others commit mass murder — but it's hard to argue any of his language constitutes an actual threat of violence.
Hammer refers to herself in the suit as a "79-year-old grandmother," but she is infamous for telling her supporters that gun-control advocates are "traitors" to the country and deserve to be shamed — she has even routinely distributed politicians' contact information and encouraged gun owners to criticize public figures. In light of the state of discourse on guns in Florida, it's easy to imagine her tactics have encouraged some far-right Florida nutjobs to email some horrid things to lawmakers.
Here's how the New Yorker described her tactics in a March 5 profile:
According to court documents filed by the N.R.A. in 2016, the group has roughly three hundred thousand members in Florida. They are a politically active voting bloc with whom Hammer frequently communicates through e-mail. Using supercharged, provocative language, she keeps her followers apprised of who has been “loyal” to the Second Amendment and who has committed unforgivable “betrayals.” “If you’re with Marion ninety-five per cent of the time, you’re a damn traitor,” [Florida Congressman] Matt Gaetz said.
Gaetz said that one of her e-mails “packs more political punch than a hundred thousand TV buys from any other special interest in the state.” Hammer demonstrates a keen understanding of group identity. She and her followers are defending a way of life that is under threat. When a public official breaks ranks, Hammer exposes his “treacherous actions” and “traitorous nature.” She then invites her supporters to contact the official. “Tell him how you feel,” she advises. “Please do it today—time is short!!!”
Hammer is now suing others for doing basically the same thing and has already been lambasted in certain corners of the press for it. (Writing about her federal suit, Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz said that Hammer's tactics were "rich with snowflake irony" and that, although she refers to herself as a scared old grandmother, she actually spends her time "firebombing legislators who aren’t in lockstep with the NRA.")
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Hammer claims she and her family are afraid to go out in public nowadays, and cites instances of protesters peacefully chanting at other Florida elected officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi last month, as signs that the statewide political climate is becoming "dangerous." (Her critics would certainly argue that those people are simply exercising their constitutional right to protest.)
Meanwhile, Hammer has basically written laws that have led to deaths across Florida. Ocala state senator and "proud Confederate descendant" Dennis Baxley has admitted that Hammer drafts bills for him, including the original text of the 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law, which a 2016 Journal of the American Medical Association study noted has led to an "abrupt and sustained" increase in homicides statewide.
So it's not "harassment" to say Hammer's work is contributing to deaths across Florida — it's science.