Joe Henderson: NRA drops Hammer on Richard Corcoran, but will it matter?


Outgoing Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is a savvy and, if needed, ruthless political operative.

With that in mind, I can only conclude he knew what he was doing when he helped steer the recent gun-control bill through the Legislature. Gov. Rick Scott signed it, and now Mama Gun is very angry with her boys.

Mama, of course, is Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association lobbyist extraordinaire who is savvy and ruthless herself.

Under the headline We Were Born at Night But It Wasn’t Last Night, Mr. Speaker, Hammer urged NRA members to let Corcoran know how they feel about his declaration that the new law was “one of the greatest Second Amendment victories we’ve ever had” because it allows schools to arm selected personnel in the name of security.

Hammer scoffed at that and piled on with what she called a violation of “the rights of young adults aged 18-20 by denying them their constitutional right to purchase a firearm.”

That’s an interesting interpretation of the Constitution, since I don’t know anywhere in that document where it is written that “young adults age 18-20 have the right to buy the kind of high-powered weapon that was used to murder 17 people in Parkland.”

And before NRA supporters scream that the Second Amendment says the right to own such a weapon “shall not be infringed” – um, it has been “infringed” in Florida for years.

People have had to be 21 years old to own a handgun, for instance. And if we’re not in the infringing business, then I guess the NRA is saying that age doesn’t matter.

Following that through to its logical conclusion, I guess the NRA would supportive of the “right” of a 10-year-old to buy a gun.

But I digress.

Corcoran and Scott have been staunch NRA supporters for a long time. They have happily accepted Hammer’s endorsements and all that comes with that, but the political reality for both men is that having NRA support may not be helpful right now.

I guess we’re going to find out.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron Desantis have taken care not to distance themselves from the NRA. Desantis predicted an NRA lawsuit against the new Florida gun law has a good chance of succeeding.

Obviously, the NRA’s influence on state policy will be a major issue in the upcoming Republican primary and in November’s general election.

Most people expect Scott to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, while Corcoran has considered running for governor.

Hammer’s usual threat for those who stray from the NRA’s rigid interpretation of the constitution is to find a primary challenger who will see things her way.

With Scott, though, that tactic may not work. He is expected to have little or no serious primary opposition, and with the growing anti-gun sentiment in Florida he can campaign on the new law in the statewide race.

Corcoran, on the other hand, was always going to face a tough primary battle if he gets in the race, so the NRA’s angst with him may not make much difference. He can reasonably tell voters that schools are safer because a common-sense age restriction was put in place.

Since Parkland, polls have shown Americans increasingly believe something needs to be done about high-powered weapons like the AR-15.

Corcoran seems to be betting that enough gun-rights supporters will agree with what he did and reject Mama Gun’s anger.

It’s a good gamble.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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