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Court Hears Arguments In NRA Lobbyist Case Over Emailed Gun Victim Photos

Marion Hammer
Mark Wallheiser
/
AP Photo
Gun lobbyist Marion Hammer returns to her seat after speaking in the Senate Rules Committee meeting on gun safety in the Knott Building at the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 26, 2018.

Long-time National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer is suing a group of gun control activists after she says they sent her threatening emails and messages. Hammer says Los Angeles Attorney Lawrence Sorensen, one of the men named in the case, sent graphic photographs of victims from mass shootings.

Marion Hammer is a long- time lobbyist for the NRA. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018, Sorensen sent photos of victims from the shooting to Hammer’s email. He also wrote the deaths were the work of the guns she lobbies for. Hammer’s attorney Ken Turkel says that message was threatening and invaded Hammer’s privacy.

“In a vacuum here, we had a private actor send another private person gory disgusting pictures for no obvious reason at all," said Turkel. "And in that respect judge if what this hinges on is do we stand a plausible claim, we believe elementally there are plenty of facts pled that this should be reversed on that ground.”

But during Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Robin Rosenbaum indicated Hammer’s public email account, linked to her lobbying efforts, is not considered private.

“People send things from all over and in this particular case, he was from California. This is how people reach each other is by email. It was sent to her work email," said Rosenbaum. "I mean that’s the address that is advertised as her lobbyist address. It wasn’t sent to her personal email that has no association with her lobbying."

Rosenbaum also suggested a fair way to interpret the email is as an expression of views on assault rifles rather than a threat. During a hearing on the issue before the 11th circuit court of appeals, Judge Rosenbaum questioned Turkel about how Sorenson should have reached out instead.

"If he wanted to talk to her about his view on whether assault rifles should be regulated how would he reach her? What would be the way to do that?" said Rosenbaum.

"Judge we have as a country celebrated any number of public forums; government-designated public forums," said Turkel.

"I’m asking you what should be the way he should reach her," said Rosenbaum.

"He could certainly if he wanted to have a discussion, he could email her," said Turkel.

"Well, that’s exactly what he did, emailed her," said Rosenbaum.

A lower court had previously dismissed the case on First Amendment grounds. Hammer appealed that ruling. It’s now being considered by the 11th circuit court of appeal.