UPDATED: Why can’t we (Florida’s gun community) all get along?

UPDATE: Last night, Florida Carry issued a statement regarding their opposition to SB-148 and the subsequent statement from NRA.

Here’s the gist: “To blame Florida Carry for opposing a bad bill that was not going anywhere to begin with was uncalled for. In truth, the bill that the National Rifle Association is criticizing Florida Carry for opposing, did nothing to get rid of Florida’s current ban on the open carry of Rifles or any other firearm.”

Click here to read the entire statement.

PREVIOUS: I probably need to start by saying I have nothing but the utmost respect for our pro-gun leaders here in Florida.

Marion Hammer is a legend in the gun community — the indefatigable leader of the Gunshine State’s armed intelligentsia. Marion is a former NRA president, a current NRA Board member and executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, the state NRA affiliate.

If you like concealed carry, thank Marion.

If your child is one of the millions made safer by NRA’s Eddie Eagle gun safety program, again, thank Marion. Eddie Eagle was her idea.

Same-Same for the good folks at Florida Carry.

Co-founders and co-executive directors Sean Caranna and Rich Nascak have always been there for gun owners too.

Whenever I’ve identified a problem — the most recent being an out-of-control public housing authority that sought to ban firearms from its property, leaving the most vulnerable members of our society even more vulnerable — the guys have pounced.

Their ability to back up their demands with the threat of a lawsuit has caused more than a few anti-gun bureaucrats to shit their pants. I kinda like that.

Recently, Marion and the Florida Carry guys came to contretemps over SB-148,  Sen. Greg Steube’s so called “Protection from Open Carry abuse bill.”

The bill had some flaws — everyone admits that. For me, the biggest flaw was that it wasn’t traditional open carry.

Anyway, Florida Carry opposed the bill.

“That the bill’s progressive penalties are over a lifetime, rather than over a reasonable period of time, forces Florida Carry to oppose the bill as drafted,” the fellas said.

It all became somewhat moot, because SB-148 and all other pro-gun bills never even made it out of Steube’s Senate Judiciary Committee because, once again, gun owners and those in favor of civil rights were betrayed by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. 

The duo joined with four Democrats and voted against two of the gun bills, and Flores sided with the Democrats to kill the third. 

Marion sent out an email Thursday. The title says all anyone needs to know: “Florida Carry cuts off its nose to spite its face — AGAIN.”

“Once again Florida Carry, Inc. has demonstrated a lack of concern for Concealed Weapons and Firearms License holders.  License holders continue to be abused by law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts.  When firearms, that are being lawfully carried concealed, accidentally become exposed to the sight of another person, license holders are being arrested for violating the open carry ban,” she wrote.

She points out, correctly, that Florida’s right-to-carry bill that NRA passed in 1987 wasn’t perfect either, but it was a start and better than nothing.

“Today, 1.8 million gun owners have licenses to carry concealed because we know the value of working one step at a time and making things better while pursuing perfection,” she wrote. “Was the bill perfect? No, it wasn’t.  Was it better than existing law?  Yes, it absolutely was better.  Could it have been made better in other committees before final passage? Of, course. That’s the process.”

Florida Carry did not respond to the email blast, at least not yet.

I can see both sides in the matter.

The bill was certainly flawed — parts of it horribly so. Was it better than nothing, sure, if it could have gotten out of committee, but when you add Garcia and Flores to the mix the chances of that happening were highly unlikely.

What are we left with? The state’s two most powerful pro-gun groups are at odds with each other.

That, friends, is a situation that cannot stand.

It would constitute a real victory for the antis and the gun banners if it remains the status quo.

During his 1966 campaign for Governor of California, Ronald Reagan uttered his famous Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” 

I think if we juxtapose “gun group” into President Reagan’s famous epistle it will be to everyone’s benefit.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. This is an excellent observation and article. We see the same thing happening nationally when GOA and NAGR disagree with the NRA. Is the NRA perfect, of course not. Do they make mistakes, certainly and I have personally called them on a few but’s that’s the nature of any organization. But when two organizations opening criticize each other, it is a victory for the antis. I am often astonished and disappointed by the venom some members of the shooting community exhibit against active pro-gun organizations when they disagree with them. They say they’re quitting the NRA and tell everyone else to do so, and although I don;t live in Florida so i don;t know for sure, I would wager there are people there doing the same thing in terms of the local gun rights organizations.

    We need to present a united front and to work together in order to survive, otherwise it will be a divide and conquer victory for the other side.

  2. Marion is not always a friend of gun rights, not always supporting everything like open carry in the past or bump stocks just a few weeks ago. just to name a few. I would rather if she does not support something to just stay silent and not take snipes at it. Doing positive stuff is great, attacking certain aspects of gun rights is not. Anyway it is a moot issue as we have turncoat politicians denying our Rights being restored. The NRA needs to quickly change ratings on politicians who vote against or do not vote for our Rights. Not give them a positive rating because they begged for it to get elected like MS Flores

    • Open carry is not a good personal choice, but there are no absolutes for every situation.
      If open carry were always wrong, no police officer would do it. We can agree open carry is wrong without prohibiting it by law. Education is knowledge. Prohibition is terrorism.

      On the other hand, I prefer prohibition of open carry over prohibition of possession. I consider prohibition of open carry to create problems when full concealment is accidentally violated. Again, the perfect is the enemy of the good and education is better than prohibition. Eventually people see the problem and will correct it individually. The real problem is no prohibition can be imposed without the loss of liberty. No right can be limited without being lost.

  3. I have been reticent to become a member of the NRA until yesterday. I now see a reason for a national group not having to do with my State. When I saw your article, my very first thought was the Republican 11th Commandment, which I see broken so often. They say the perfect is the enemy of the good, but the first Republican President said this:
    The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.

    Speech in the House of Representatives (20 June 1848)


  4. I have seen people from Florida carry openly say in Social Media (their personal accounts) that Marion Hammer and the NRA were actually sponsoring an Anti-Gun Bill in SB-148, not just opposing. It pains me because I am a member of both organizations and although both at fault with their respective letters, Florida carry is screwing the pooch on a bigger scale.

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