Former NRA President: We Helped Draft Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

The National Rifle Association's longtime Florida lobbyist acknowledged Monday that the organization helped draft Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which critics have dubbed "Kill at Will" in the wake of its connection to the Trayvon Martin case in that state.

Deceptively identified by its supporters as the "Castle Doctrine" (the term for the common law principle to defend one's home from intruders), the 2005 law states that civilians in any place they have a legal right to be, public or private, need not retreat in the face of what they perceive as threats but may instead use deadly force and be immune from prosecution, regardless of where the events occur.

"The NRA participated in drafting the Castle Doctrine and supporting it through the process," Marion Hammer told Media Matters. Hammer was president of the NRA from 1995 to 1998, remains a member of its board, and is a longtime Florida lobbyist for the group.

On February 26, Martin was returning from a local 7-Eleven to the apartment of his father's fiancée when he was spotted by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic man carrying a concealed handgun who acted as a neighborhood watch volunteer in the gated community. According to recordings, Zimmerman called 911 to report Martin as a "real suspicious guy" and "a black male" with "his hand in his waistband," then left the car to pursue the youth against the dispatcher's recommendation.

A struggle followed, ending with Zimmerman shooting and killing Martin. Police have said that because Zimmerman stated that he had acted in self-defense, he could not be arrested under the "Stand Your Ground" law, while experts have stated that the statute may prevent Zimmerman's prosecution. This has resulted in a public outcry and a Department of Justice investigation.

"Most legislation is written by lobbyists, legislators and bill-drafters," Hammer said. "In most cases, legislation comes about as a result of some action that causes legislators to believe that there is a need for remedial legislation. NRA did help draft the Castle Doctrine Law and [former Florida state]Senator [Durell] Peaden was the one that came to us and said we have a bad situation here and we need to do something about it."

In 2005, Florida Today reporter Paul Flemming reported on the "Stand Your Ground" legislation before it was passed, writing that the NRA "wrote the bill."

Asked again last week about the NRA's role, Flemming -- now at the Tallahassee Democrat and still covering the statehouse - reiterated that statement.

"There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so," Flemming told Media Matters.

Asked how he discovered that the NRA had co-written the legislation, Flemming stated: "She told me, I talked to her. I speak to Marion and certainly spoke to Sen. Peaden regularly. The observation is that they have their legislative priorities every year and that was one." He added, "All of the gun laws that come through the Florida legislature, she writes."

Hammer recalled that the law came about after an incident following Hurricane Ivan in 2004 in which 77-year-old James Workman shot an intruder who broke into his RV after the deadly storm. Months before the statute was passed, prosecutors declined to press charges against Workman, saying he had legally acted in self-defense.

"Yes, we helped," Hammer said. "Sen. Peaden and I had a conversation, he was outraged at what had happened and ... they had not decided whether to charge this man. He says, 'what are we going to do about it?' I said 'we can work on some legislation to deal with this issue.' It is not an uncommon problem."

She added, "he came to us, we helped draft it, he took it, he put it in the bill drafting, it came out of bill drafting, it came through the process, it passed."

Asked if the final version differed much from the original bill she helped draft, Hammer said: "I don't remember. I know that we supported the legislation. If the bill did not do what the people of the state of Florida needed to do, it would not have passed."

Hammer did note that she does not believe the law applies to the Zimmerman case.

Contacted by Media Matters, Sen. Peaden confirmed that the NRA "participated," in crafting the law, but said he wrote the law.

Asked to specify how Hammer was involved, Peaden said, "I don't remember, that was seven years ago. They're lobbyists, they lobby laws and things like that."

Rep. Dennis Baxley, who co-sponsored the law in the Florida House of Representative, declined to comment on the legislation, his office said Monday.

Flemming also described Hammer and the NRA as playing a major part in writing other pro-gun laws in Florida.

"She is a very powerful lobbyist in the state house in Tallahassee and they pick a number of priorities in the legislature to go after," Flemming explained. "One was a couple of years ago, guns at work, they had the concealed carry previous to that and that year, in 2005, they wanted to take on the Castle Doctrine."

Flemming later added, "There was a bill last year, more recent memory, sponsored by the guy who now holds Durell's seat in the state senate, Greg Evers, to prohibit doctors from asking patients if they owned guns or not. That again was an NRA-sponsored, Marion Hammer-written piece of legislation."

Asked again last week about the NRA's role, Flemming -- now at the Tallahassee Democrat and still covering the statehouse - reiterated that statement.

"There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so," Flemming told Media Matters.

Asked how he discovered that the NRA had co-written the legislation, Flemming stated: "She told me, I talked to her. I speak to Marion and certainly spoke to Sen. Peaden regularly. The observation is that they have their legislative priorities every year and that was one." He added, "All of the gun laws that come through the Florida legislature, she writes."

Hammer recalled that the law came about after an incident following Hurricane Ivan in 2004 in which 77-year-old James Workman shot an intruder who broke into his RV after the deadly storm. Months before the statute was passed, prosecutors declined to press charges against Workman, saying he had legally acted in self-defense.

"Yes, we helped," Hammer said. "Sen. Peaden and I had a conversation, he was outraged at what had happened and ... they had not decided whether to charge this man. He says, 'what are we going to do about it?' I said 'we can work on some legislation to deal with this issue.' It is not an uncommon problem."

She added, "he came to us, we helped draft it, he took it, he put it in the bill drafting, it came out of bill drafting, it came through the process, it passed."

Asked if the final version differed much from the original bill she helped draft, Hammer said: "I don't remember. I know that we supported the legislation. If the bill did not do what the people of the state of Florida needed to do, it would not have passed."

Hammer did note that she does not believe the law applies to the Zimmerman case.

Contacted by Media Matters, Sen. Peaden confirmed that the NRA "participated," in crafting the law, but said he wrote the law.

Asked to specify how Hammer was involved, Peaden said, "I don't remember, that was seven years ago. They're lobbyists, they lobby laws and things like that."

Rep. Dennis Baxley, who co-sponsored the law in the Florida House of Representative, declined to comment on the legislation, his office said Monday.

Flemming also described Hammer and the NRA as playing a major part in writing other pro-gun laws in Florida.

"She is a very powerful lobbyist in the state house in Tallahassee and they pick a number of priorities in the legislature to go after," Flemming explained. "One was a couple of years ago, guns at work, they had the concealed carry previous to that and that year, in 2005, they wanted to take on the Castle Doctrine."

Flemming later added, "There was a bill last year, more recent memory, sponsored by the guy who now holds Durell's seat in the state senate, Greg Evers, to prohibit doctors from asking patients if they owned guns or not. That again was an NRA-sponsored, Marion Hammer-written piece of legislation."

Person
Marion Hammer, Trayvon Martin
Stories/Interests
Guns, Investigations, National Rifle Association
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