If you’re packing heat, chances are you owe a debt of gratitude to the American Framers and Marion Hammer. You undoubtedly know the Founders’ role in crafting the Bill of Rights adopted in 1791, but you’re probably unfamiliar with Marion Hammer and the NRA’s ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) role in reestablishing those rights.
This past June, after 44 years of active lobbying, Hammer, a.k.a. the “pistol packin’ great-grandma,” retired from the NRA’s lobbying arm. With nearly half a century of Second Amendment activism and having served as the first female president of the National Rifle Association, Hammer sat down with Deeper Dive’s Dara Kam to discuss her career as an NRA lobbyist. As you can imagine, the often described rough and tough lobbyist’s impact on gun legislation during tumultuous times in America, makes for some interesting listening.
Among the biggest changes that occurred over her decades-long career, Hammer claimed, was the apathy that had seeped into public life.
“In the old days, we really, really cared about issues. And very few people care anymore about anything but themselves and what they are doing. It’s kind of hard to go to the capital and lobbying in front of a bunch of people who read a script and have no idea what they’re saying and it doesn’t really mean anything to them. This means something to me it always has.”
Hammer isn’t exaggerating. She was never afforded any room for indifference towards the Second Amendment because there was never a time in her life when she was without a firearm. Starting at the age of five, yes five, Marion began hunting rabbit and squirrel to ease her family’s financial burden in rural South Carolina. Her ventures in the backcountry hunting for small game was a key driver in her gun advocacy. In 1974 she began volunteering for the NRA, until she formally began representing the organization in 1978.
By then, politicians had whittled away at the Second Amendment slowly limiting the right to non-existence. According to Hammer, “Certain jurisdictions would not allow people to carry guns under the constitution for their own safety and the safety of their families. As far back as 1892, Florida started requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm on your person.” The problem became, how do you restore a right nearly 100 years after its infringement? But solutions emerged.
According to NRA-ILA, “Before 1987, there were 10 RTC states, six of which had ‘shall issue’ concealed carry permit laws, two of which had fairly-administered discretionary-issue carry permit laws, one of which was varyingly interpreted within the state, and one of which did not require a permit to carry openly or concealed. In 1987, Florida enacted a ‘shall issue’ RTC [right to carry] law that became the model for similar laws thereafter adopted in 33 other states.”
“It took 7 years to get the piece of legislation passed.” But just don’t call Florida’s 1987 “shall issue” RTC law a permit. “It’s not a permit; it’s a license” Hammer contended. “I never liked the word ‘permit’ because it suggests that you need somebody’s permission. Well, we have permission in the Constitution.” Marion explains, “If you don’t have a criminal record, a record of mental illness, if you qualify under all of the standards that are laid out in the bill, they shall give you a license.”
It’s this kind of stern talk and unwavering loyalty to the constitution that the appropriately named Hammer built her reputation on because it wasn’t all sunshine for this gun-rights veteran. Most employees would’ve run from constant harassment, death threats, and public upheavals, but not Marion. The pistol packin’ great-grandma decidedly faced these challenges head-on. Find out how in the rest of Dara Kam’s interview with the larger-than-life Marion Hammer here.