As a voting constituent, you have a tremendous ability to influence the outcome of legislation. Ask any elected official which individual`s concerns are most important to him, and chances are they all will deliver the same response: his constituents`. All politicians are keenly aware of the fact that it is their constituents who hold the keys to their political futures. Therefore, constituent concerns are of the utmost concern to politicians. The best way you can affect the outcome of legislation is to directly communicate your views to your lawmakers.
REMEMBER: Your lawmakers work for you!
WRITING EFFECTIVE LETTERS
One of the most often-utilized methods of communicating with your lawmakers is by writing a letter. As a voting constituent, a letter is an easy way for you to let lawmakers know your views on specific issues, encourage them to vote your way, and let them know you`ll watch how they vote on particular issues and keep those votes in mind on Election Day!
Personally-written letters allow you an opportunity to present your position to your lawmakers without interruption. With that in mind, you`ll want to keep the letter short and to the point, with just enough facts and figures to further enhance your statement. Never lie or make a statement you can`t back up with evidence. Always let your lawmakers know how a specific issue will affect you personally, and make sure he understands that you live and vote in his district or state, and therefore, what affects you may affect your fellow constituents as well. If you own or operate a business, use your company letterhead. If you`re a member of the PTA or other civic group, don`t hesitate to mention that. Taking these steps will enhance your message and ensure your concerns are taken seriously.
- How To Address Your Representative. Address your letters to “The Honorable _______,” and begin the letter “Dear Senator” or “Dear Representative.” If writing to a Committee Chairman or Speaker of the House, address him as “Mr. Chairman” or “Mr. Speaker.” (You may obtain your lawmakers` addresses by clicking here https://www.senate.gov/senators/index.htm
- Be Brief, Specific, & Always Be Courteous! Letters shouldn`t exceed one page, and the purpose of your letter should be stated clearly in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to specific legislation, identify it accordingly (use the bill number, if known, and the title of the bill and/or a brief description). To make sure your letter is as productive as possible, always be courteous, even if you disagree with your representative`s position! Never threaten or use abusive language. This only hurts your cause.
- Ask Them To Write Back. Always ask for a response to your letter. You`ll want a hard copy of your legislator`s positions on these issues for future reference and to document their positions.
E-mail is becoming a more popular way to communicate your views to your lawmaker. While not every lawmaker can receive e-mail messages, most are able and more and more elected officials are utilizing it. Tips for transmitting an effective e-mail message are similar to writing a letter, though this format is usually less formal and allows you to be a bit more brief in your message. A major advantage of e-mail versus a personally-written letter is the speed in which your message will be received. Be prepared for some lawmakers to “respond” to your e-mail message with a canned reflector message that may not specifically address your concern. Whether you receive a specific response to your message or not, be sure that you request your lawmaker`s position in writing so you can document his position easily.
ATTEND TOWN HALL MEETINGS
Lawmakers often host town hall meetings in their districts — especially during congressional district work breaks — to tout their achievements and solicit feedback from their constituents. Such meetings are a prime opportunity for you to ask your lawmakers to state their position on firearm-related issues for the record, in an open and public forum. The following guidelines should be helpful when planning to attend town hall meetings.
- Get On The Invite List And Attend The Meetings. Write your lawmakers and ask to be put on the invitation list for the lawmaker`s town hall meetings. If they do not have such a list, ask for information on the next meeting. When you receive word that a town hall meeting is scheduled, be sure to make plans to attend, and share this information
- Prepare Questions Ahead Of Time. Have specific questions in mind, such as asking for your legislator`s position on a specific bill or issue, e.g., Right-To-Carry, a ban on gun shows, lawsuit preemption, H.R. 123, or S. 456.
- Get An Answer. Ask your question clearly, and as simply as possible, e.g., “Do you support Right To Carry/ Do you oppose gun bans?” If your legislator doesn`t answer your question sufficiently, politely repeat the question.
- Follow-Up With a Letter. Whether you had the opportunity to ask your question or not, follow up with a letter to your lawmaker. Let him know you attended his last town meeting. Ask your question in your letter if you didn`t have an opportunity to do so at the meeting, or address his response to any firearm-related questions other constituents may have asked. This letter will ensure your lawmakers take you and your views seriously, and will allow you to obtain a written response addressing your concerns