Though most 2nd Amendment supporters are on the front line fighting to preserve the liberties granted to Americans by the Bill of Rights, none have been more prominent as Marion Hammer.
Serving as a commander on the battlefield to save firearms, she rose through the ranks and lived a life devoted to defending the 2nd Amendment for every American -- including those who oppose her views.
While most gun enthusiasts dedicate a few social media posts and pictures to their support of the 2nd Amendment, Ms. Hammer has devoted her entire life to protecting a right that so few people in the world have -- the right to keep and bear arms.
Marion's journey is unlike any others. While most people's introduction to guns was their first hunt, Marion's inauguration was out of necessity.
Growing up on a family farm outside of Columbia, South Carolina, Marion was given an ultimatum at a very young age: hunt or don't eat. Raised by her paternal grandparents, Hammer grew up relatively poor, and her family had to engage in subsistence hunting to get by.
"Farm kids hunt. Farm kids do chores," Hammer told The Florida Report. "It was just a way of life."
When her grandfather was convinced that she was old enough, she was given her first rifle. The gun was a .22 Remington TargetMaster. The gun belonged to Marion's father, who served in World War II and died in Okinawa. Along with the rifle, Marion was given a handful of cartridges, and it was her responsibility at the age of six to manage her ammo.
"He told me that 'for every rabbit, squirrel, or bird that you bring home to put on the table, I will replace your cartridge. If you miss, it's on you,'" Hammer said about the deal her grandfather made with her.
With only an allowance of a nickel per week, Marion had to be good with a gun or she would lose her ability to use something that had become an extension of herself. Marion credits her grandfather, the deal he made with her, and her upbringing as the foundation that her career would be built on.
Later in life, Marion's proficiency with a gun at a young age came in handy when she became a competitive shooter. As a competitive shooter, Marion's skill and love for guns flourished, allowing her competitive spirit to blossom. Little did she know, her desire to shoot competitively would lead to her becoming one of the biggest gun advocates in the United States.
The major catalyst that jump-started her career was the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was passed in response to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, and Bobby Kennedy in June 1968.
The Gun Control Act of 1968, signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson on Oct. 22, was the first major gun control measure in the United States since 1938. The final bill prohibited all interstate trafficking in firearms and ammunition for individuals by extending the earlier handgun ban to shotguns and rifles. It also restricted access to guns for “prohibited persons” such as felons, fugitives, drug addicts, and the mentally ill in addition to banning the importation of surplus military weapons. Further, the bill prohibited people under age 18 from buying rifles or shotguns and individuals under age 21 from buying a handgun. Essentially, the law laid the foundation for how guns are currently regulated in the United States.
While many who wanted to restrict gun access saw the 1968 law as a victory, Marion viewed the law as an infringement on her rights, and she knew that she had to take action.
"I was angered by the fact that Congress would look at taking away my rights because of assassinations -- something that I had nothing to do with, that America had nothing to do with," Hammer explained. "So I decided to fight it."
Utilizing the connections she made over the years, Marion began her quest to defend the 2nd Amendment. She first began her advocacy by using a local gun club that she was part of. She tried diligently to get members of the club to write letters to Congress. She soon realized that many of the members were apathetic to the cause.
"People were complacent," she said. "They didn't think the '68 gun control bill would pass."
Frustrated with the lack of moral fiber from her colleagues, Marion took on the Sisyphean task herself. Following a vote from the club, she purchased 100 postcards and wrote messages on every one of them, addressing each one to members of Congress. At the next meeting, she passed them out and made people sign them.
"That was my first effort as an activist," Hammer said. "Little did I know it was the beginning."
Marion would eventually move to Tallahassee, where she continued to shoot competitively while simultaneously raising awareness on legislation aimed at modeling Florida's gun laws in a similar fashion to New York's and California's
Following the passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act, the National Rifle Association (NRA) knew that more anti-gun measures were on the horizon. The organization ramped up their fight by forming groups around the country. In 1976, they formed Unified Sportsmen of Florida, an organization devoted to protecting the rights of all law-abiding Florida gun owners. Shortly after the formation of the organization, the NRA hired Marion as executive director -- a position she's maintained for 41 years.
Since then, Marion has been a beacon for Floridians looking to put a divide between government and guns. From educating legislators on the need to pass a right-to-carry law in 1987 to become the first female president of the NRA 1995, Marion has become one of the most influential supporters of the 2nd Amendment. She's been credited with influencing many of Florida's gun laws, and her work continues to this day.
While the times have certainly changed, the desire to protect our nation's most coveted freedom remains resolute in Marion Hammer. The embers that began to burn inside her in 1968 have continued to be fueled by her passion to protect those who are responsible gun owners. While today's political climate dissuades many, the current atmosphere surrounding gun control only stokes the flame inside her.
Marion's dedication to the 2nd Amendment persists today in Tallahassee. With no plans of quitting or retiring, Marion continues to help pass comprehensive legislation that doesn't penalize accountable gun owners.
"The 2nd Amendment is the only thing that we have that enables us to protect the rest of the Bill of Rights," Hammer said. "As long as citizens are armed and able to band together to protect themselves, your country can remain free."