The first female president of the National Rifle Association filed a $1 million federal lawsuit against a selection of online harassers who she says crossed a line.
Marion Hammer, 79, head of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, the state’s NRA affiliate, filed suit against four men in a Tallahassee federal court on Friday, seeking damages stemming from harassment and threats from the men received in the days following the tragic shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The 129-page lawsuit says that among the scores of profane remarks and graphic images Hammer has received over the past several months, urged by groups such as End the NRA, a few rose to the surface.
Lawrence T. “Lol” Sorensen, a California-based mediator and arbitrator, allegedly sent a pair of unsolicited emails to Hammer that contained images of gunshot victims. Three other online hecklers — Chris Risica of New London, Connecticut; Howard Weiss and Patrick Sullivan — all emailed expletive-laden threats that contained personal attacks on Hammer ranging from wishing she met with an “(sic) ammo dido (sic)” to hoping she received, “100 bullets between your eyes” and praying, “someday I run into you so I can scream my head off at your sick face.” The electronic harassment included vows to become her “enemy for life” and make her life and those of other gun rights supporters, “living hell.”
Hammer, who in addition to her Second Amendment advocacy has worked for the past two decades as a pro bono lobbyist for children with dyslexia and learning disabilities at the state capitol, says the vitriol targeting her family is especially disturbing.
“The attacks being launched against Hammer have occurred in an increasingly aggressive social climate in which the Internet has allowed free speech to be hijacked, perverted, and abused to inflict harm, fear, and emotional pain on others,” the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit also details that at a public hearing in Tallahassee two weeks after the Parkland shooting, Rev. Joe Parramore leaned over to the lobbyist and said, “The next check you write will be to pay for the funerals of your grandchildren,” although he is not named as a defendant. Further, she says she was confronted while grocery shopping by an individual who told her “I hope somebody blows your fucking head off and your family too.”
To protect herself and her family, the former NRA president says she has changed her routine to become unpredictable, refrains from public gatherings with her family, and has dialed back her public appearances — not only for her own safety but over concern that someone acting against her could harm innocent bystanders. Further, the NRA has sought to shield the identities of two young adults in a lawsuit filed to challenge the constitutionality of a Florida gun law adopted post-Parkland.
It is not just Hammer that has felt the wrath of anti-gun activists. In May a University of Nebraska professor was fined for vandalizing the Virginia home of Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s lobbying arm. Others have picketed Cox’s wife’s place of business and NRA headquarters with flyers and signs featuring photos of child shooting victims. Last year, conservative radio host and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch said she had to pack her things in garbage bags and leave her home on little notice due to a series of death threats in the days after the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting that left 58 dead.