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!
- How To Address Your Representative. Begin the letter "Dear Senator" or "Dear Assemblyman/woman." If writing to a Committee Chairman or Speaker of the House, address him as "Mr. Chairman" or "Mr. Speaker."
- 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. Always send copies of any responses you receive to our NVFAC Lobbyist (email@example.com).
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. Send this response to our NVFAC Lobbyist (firstname.lastname@example.org).
EFFECTIVE TELEPHONE CALLS
You will often find that, as bills move through the legislative process, there simply isn`t enough time to write your legislators prior to a key vote. When you need to get in touch with your lawmakers immediately to let them know of your position on gun-related issues, and if you don`t have e-mail capabilities, your telephone calls become the most effective means for you to communicate your views. Below are several tips for you to refer to when placing your calls.
- Identify Yourself As A Constituent. As someone who lives and votes in the district of the lawmaker you are contacting, your phone calls carry the most weight. Calls to representatives outside your district or state can be helpful as well. However, be sure to always contact your own legislators first.
- State Your Point Quickly And Clearly. Be sure to limit your telephone call to one subject. Be brief but specific. Your phone call should last at most only a couple of minutes. State the reason you are calling, giving a brief description of the bill and bill number if possible. REMEMBER: ALWAYS BE COURTEOUS! NEVER threaten, or use abusive language.
- Request That Your Legislator Follow Up Your Call With a Letter. Be sure to give your name and home address and request that your legislator follow up with a letter. You took the time to call, so have your legislator take the time to respond. Get his position in writing on issues important to you and send a copy to our NVFAC Lobbyist (email@example.com).
By far, the most effective way to articulate your views to your elected official and to affect the outcome of legislation is to sit down and speak with your lawmakers face-to-face. While these personal visits are extremely productive, they also require the most amount of planning to ensure success. When planning a personal visit, refer to the following guidelines:
- Schedule An Appointment. Elected officials have extremely hectic schedules. To help increase the chance that you will have time allotted for you to speak directly with your legislator, call in advance to set up an appointment. In all likelihood, most of your personal meetings will be scheduled at your lawmakers` district offices, so be sure you contact these offices to make your appointment.
- Explain How Proposed Legislation Will Directly Affect You. Use specific examples to show your lawmaker how firearm-related bills will jeopardize your rights or the lives of law-abiding citizens, and unduly burden those engaged in lawful activities. If the proposed measure will strengthen our rights or benefit gun owners, specifically cite examples to support this position.
- Always Be Polite! Nothing is as detrimental to a visit with a lawmaker than rudeness, vulgarity, or threats. Even if you disagree with the position of your legislator, be courteous. Dress professionally to convey the seriousness of your visit.
- Follow Up Your Visit With A Letter. Regardless of how your meeting goes, send a letter to your legislator thanking him for his time, and reiterating the points you discussed. This gesture will go a long way, and possibly allow for future meetings.
- Bring Ample Materials To Share With Your Lawmaker. These materials will bolster you point and serve as valuable reference materials after your meeting has concluded.