Cerabino: Florida’s NRA mouthpiece reaches for a silencer

Florida’s chief NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer is standing her ground in a whole new way.

This month, the 79-year-old grandmother and the guiding hand of permissive gun legislation in Florida for decades, filed a 129-page federal lawsuit that is mostly a compilation of the bitter, profane and sometimes threatening emails she received after the February massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“Because of you, people have died,” one of the emails reads. “We hold you culpable for all the innocent lives murdered and for facilitating gun violence. You should never rest easy or in peace.”

The theme of many of these messages is that Hammer ought to be consigned to a future in Hell, and the language is usually coarse.

“You should be forced to clean up the blood and guts mess inside the Parkland High School and tell the families of those slain how important your gun lobby job is!” one email-er wrote her on the night of the massacre. “You are a piece of s—-! May you and all the NRA whores burn in hell!!”

As for the blood and guts, a few people sent her graphic color photos of other gunshot wound victims. And some of the people who found her email address, sent her threatening messages that wished her harm and wondered how she would feel if her own grandchildren were killed by guns.

“I pray everyday that one of these ‘good’ people puts 100 bullets between your eyes so we can celebrate,” one e-mailer wrote her.

Hammer’s lawsuit claims the messages to her amount to cyber-stalking, harassment, the “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and an intrusion on her “seclusion.” She named four e-mailers as defendants, but mostly included e-mails from others she isn’t suing.

Chances are good that if you called Hammer a name that begins with a “b” or a “c” after the Parkland mass shooting, she saved your email and made it an exhibit in her suit.

The lawsuit contends that these angry emails “transcend mere criticism” and instead constitute “threats, harassment, and personal abuse to try to humiliate and intimidate Hammer in a manner that is utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

Hammer may be an expert in the Constitutional protections of the Second Amendment, but she’s wrong if she thinks the First Amendment doesn’t protect somebody to say she has “blood on her hands” for being an arm-twister for the firearms industry.

That being said, I can sympathize with her dismay at being the target of this anger. And I feel sorry for Hammer if, as her suit contends, she truly worries about being harassed in public, and that she avoids going out to dinner with her family because of the risk of being recognized and attacked.

She doesn’t deserve that.

“The hateful and abhorrent harassment and threats Hammer faces are being spewed in an increasingly threatening social climate in which erratic, aggressive, and violent online personal attacks over political views are being condoned and encouraged and can quickly escalate into actual violence,” her lawsuit says.

I agree. We ought to be worried about verbal anger turning to actual violence, as her suit contends.

Particularly in a state dominated by an NRA orthodoxy that considers any reasonable regulation of firearms — magazine sizes, assault weapons, waiting periods, background checks — to be out of bounds.

There are legions of angry people in Florida and beyond. So making it far too easy for them to turn their anger into actual violence with far-too-easily-attainable lethal firepower that far exceeds the demands of personal protection is a very real way to bring “the intentional infliction of emotional distress” on all of us.

And I might be even more sympathetic of Hammer if she wasn’t herself well versed in using emails to the state’s NRA members as way to cyber-bully Florida’s public officials.

Like the time she launched an e-mail campaign against the police chiefs of Florida’s public universities, who unanimously opposed her efforts to allow weapons on campus. She mobilized e-mailers to demand that state lawmakers muzzle the chiefs from being allowed to offer a public opinion that opposed the NRA view.

The chiefs were just all in agreement that campuses would safer without guns. They weren’t engaged in hate speech, but Hammer wanted to silence them too.

So while I sympathize with Hammer’s call for more civility, I don’t quite see her as the victim she imagines she is.

It’s not fair or civil to call Hammer a murderer. But to say that she and the NRA are complicit in a world made more deadly by the elevation of the financial needs firearms industry over common-sense gun regulation is a matter of opinion, not a form of harassment.

“There is a marked difference between speech and harassment,” her lawsuit contends, “and there are clearly delineated bounds of human decency that no person can cross by using fear, intimidation, and threats of violence to lash out at and try to silence those with whom they disagree.”

It’s too bad Hammer didn’t say that last year in reaction to an NRA video ad claiming that the media aims to “assassinate real news”, and protesters who “bully and terrorize the law abiding” need to be opposed by a patriotic uprising of NRA gun owners.

“The only way we save our country, and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth,” the NRA ad ends.

A clenched fist of truth? Even some NRA members decried that ad as a reckless incitement to civil war. But not Hammer.

And in the big scheme of things, that kind of deliberate, orchestrated language seems far more egregious than somebody venting at Hammer, “Die in hell, b——.”

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