News & Features
Our Dumb State, Vol. 9
Shoot first, cry later
Published: June 14, 2012
"It's OK to say that 'our law supersedes your law,' but it's not OK to intimidate me, and it's not OK to tell me that if I don't do it … I am going to be taken out of office," Bower said. "That's real intimidation from the National Rifle Association, without a gun. Look what they can do without a gun."
If you thought the sickening drumbeat leading the intrusion of guns into all Floridans' lives was somehow protected by the sacred nature of religious institutions – Thou shalt not kill, and all – a shocking event at a St. Petersburg church in February should probably bring that idea to its knees. According to the Tampa Bay Times, after a regular Sunday service, the pastor's daughter, Hannah Kelley, 20, went to go find her boyfriend, Dustin Bueller. Turns out Bueller was in a "church closet" looking at a 9mm Luger he intended to purchase for his birthday – again, in a church closet – from 48-year-old Moises Zambrana.
Unfortunately, this moment of bartering went sour when that gun went off, piercing a wall first, and then Kelley's head, which was in an adjoining room. Kelley died in the hospital soon after.
Even though there probably shouldn't have been a gun deal going down in a church, even though a young woman died from a gun going off, there were no charges filed in the case. It was just, after all, a freak accident.
Kelley's family released a statement forgiving the 48-year-old, adding "The family would encourage mothers and fathers everywhere to hug their children a little tighter as you never know when it will be your last opportunity." Not in Florida, anyway.
HAMMER TO FALL
So how exactly did we get here? If we told you that most of Florida's violent tendencies with firearms stemmed from a 4-foot-11-inch female bundle of insanity, would you even believe us? It's true: Nearly all roads of backfire bullshit lead back to one woman: Marion Hammer, former president and current lobbyist for the NRA.
According to watchdog website, meetthenra.org, Hammer was virtually born with a gun in her hand, calling her adventures shooting rabbits at the age of 5 "a way of life." How those rabbits led to Hammer becoming the most feared and vengeful figure in Tallahassee is a fairly long story: She grew up to found the Unified Sportsmen of Florida in 1975 (an arm of the NRA, effectively), going on to become a lobbyist for both the USF (which presently compensates her $110,000 annually) and the NRA (which paid her $190,000 in 2010). She is a loaded gun, and she's carried one in her purse at least since the passage of the 1987 concealed-carry law. Watch out for Marion.
But it's not her personal history that has gone so far in shaping Florida's relative redneckery on the issue of gun control, it's her present, almost inexplicable influence over Florida's mostly male governing bodies. She's the queen of false equivalencies. On the issue of doctors asking about guns, she spat out this little nugget to the Sun-Sentinel: "Doctors should not ask you how much money you have in your checking account, whether or not you own diamond cufflinks or your wife owns a diamond necklace. They should not be asking whether or not you own guns." Likewise, in 2011, she brought some down-home craziness to the issue of that session's Open Carry law, which was opposed by the Florida Sheriff's Association for obvious reasons. "This is Florida. It gets really hot here in the summer," she says in a video available on YouTube (linked from meetthenra.org). "A lot of times folks might go into a restaurant or into, you know, a meeting and they have on a suit with a coat and it's hot and they want to take off their jacket. If they're carrying in a shoulder holster or in a pants holster they can't take a jacket off and expose the firearm because then they would be violating the Open Carry law."
In fact, Hammer would be happier if just about everybody had a gun that they could shoot at any time they please. She's balked at everything from the Columbine massacre through the Trayvon Martin case, even going so far as to reject the 1968 federal Gun Control Act that prohibited even ex-cons, substance abusers and those designated as mentally ill from holding guns. For some reason, that struck her as unfair.
"In 1968 my way of life changed because the '68 Gun Control Act imposed restrictions on law-abiding people who had done absolutely nothing," she told the Sun-Sentinel last year, adding, "I got angry that I was being punished and I hadn't done anything wrong."
And in 1996, in a comment to the New York Times, she put an even finer point on things. How would she see fit to end the gun-control debate, she was asked. "Get rid of all liberals," she responded.
Consider it done. Also, consider it dumb.
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