Editor's note: The following profile of Marion Hammer appeared in Florida Trend and on Floridatrend.com as one of the magazine's "Icon" features of prominent Floridians. The Icons portray their subjects using quotes excerpted from interviews that encompass the person's career, accomplishments and life's wisdom. Because of the nature of the interviews, the quotes frequently depart radically from the question that prompted them — and are published in stand-alone form.
Marion P. Hammer, 69, is past president of the National Rifle Association, 1995 to 1998; a member of NRA board and NRA executive council; executive director of Unified Sportsman of Florida and is a certified firearms instructor.
There are so many factors that go into competitive shooting … You have to be aware of the lighting. You have to be aware of wind. You have to be aware of all sorts of conditions that could impact your ability to see that target and to squeeze that trigger at just the right time. Competitive shooting teaches self-reliance.
My youngest daughter, Sally, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor 12 years ago, in May of '96 — just as I was becoming president of NRA. Shands gave her six months. She had a little girl not yet a year old and a little boy, not yet 3. I was devastated. So I took her to Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins didn't agree with Shands, and their philosophy was: It's inoperable. We'll watch it and do everything we can to keep it stable and to allow her to have the best quality of life she can. She stretched that six months into almost 12 years.
So for the past 12 years, I was her primary caregiver, and we raised those children together, and now I'm raising them. Kayla is 12, and Eric is 15.
The Second Amendment is the means with which we protect freedom. If you lose your rights under the Second Amendment, you lose freedom.
Before I was 6 years old, my granddaddy taught me how to shoot. He'd go hunting in the afternoons, and I'd want to go with him, but he wouldn't let me go because I hadn't been taught. And so I changed from saying, "Let me go" to, "Teach me." When I started asking to be taught, then he taught me, and then I was allowed to go.
When we undertake a mission to pass a piece of legislation that is needed, we don't quit. If it's worth passing, it's worth passing now or later. But we won't quit.
I grew up on the farm. My dad was killed at Okinawa. I was not yet 6 years old. I had a little sister 2½ years younger, and mother couldn't work and take care of two children, so I went to live on the farm with my dad's parents (in Columbia, S.C.). My little sister lived in town with my mother's mother, so she could pick her up and have her at night and then she'd come to see me on the weekends.
I'm a lifelong Democrat.
I moved to Florida in '74. My husband, now my ex-husband, was transferred here to build the new Capitol. He was the project manager.
Charlton Heston was one of the most personable people you would ever be around. I knew George Bush before he became president. Norman Schwarzkopf is a great individual. I've shot with him.
Right around '78, the NRA had formed an organization — Unified Sportsmen of Florida — so that they could have a presence here in the Capitol, but it wasn't working the way they had envisioned, and one day someone asked me what was wrong. … I was doing volunteer lobbying. I said, "Well, it's structured wrong." And they said, "Well, why don't you take it over and restructure it and take a crack at running it?" I've been doing that ever since.
I have three Ragdoll cats. They're incredible. … When somebody comes in a house, some cats will run and hide. Mine are going to come and see who you are and what you're about. It amazes people that here are these three gorgeous cats looking up at you saying in effect, "Who are you and what are you doing in our house?"
The '68 Gun Control Act is what got me heavily and actively involved. Because of the atrocious acts of criminals, the Congress decided to infringe upon the constitutional and God-given rights of law-abiding people, and that made me angry.
I've had NRA members from all over the country call me from time to time and say, "I have a son or a daughter at FSU, and I haven't heard from them in three days. This is their name. This is their address. This is their phone number. Can you help me? I'm desperate. I'm an NRA life member, and you're the only one I knew to go to." Every single time it's been a young man or a young woman who just forgot to call home, who was busy doing things and missed the phone calls, but because we are family, they know they can call me, and I know I can call them.
My grandson has dyslexia. He goes to Woodland Hall Academy. That's the laboratory school for Dyslexia Research Institute. It's one of the finest in the nation. He's lucky it's here in Tallahassee. Because of his dyslexia, I learned a great deal and decided that when the Legislature is dealing with those issues, I need to help.
A lot of people view being attacked by your opponents or the media as being a negative. I view it as an opportunity to get my side out there.