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Effectively Communicating With<BR>Lawmakers On S. 397/H.R. 800

Friday, March 25, 2005

As you know, "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" was recently introduced as S. 397 in the U.S. Senate, and H.R. 800 in the U.S. House. This critically important, NRA-backed legislation would protect law-abiding firearm manufacturers from reckless, predatory, and potentially bankrupting lawsuits.

With efforts to pass this legislation in full swing, below are some tips to ensure your communications with your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators produce the desired effect.

Ask any elected official which individual`s concerns are most important to him or her, and chances are he or she all will deliver the same response: "constituents`." All politicians are keenly aware that it is their constituents who hold the key 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 own elected lawmakers. Again, always identify yourself as a constituent when contacting your elected officials.

NRA-ILA`s website -- www.NRAILA.org-- has a wealth of information to assist you when contacting your lawmakers, including our "Stop Reckless Lawsuits Against the Firearm Industry" section that will allow you to identify and send an e-mail or letter directly to your elected officials in Washington concerning S. 397/ H.R. 800. Remember to inform your lawmakers that you consider any votes for any anti-gun amendments to this legislation as a vote against the bills themselves!

LETTERS: As a constituent, a letter is an easy way for you to inform your lawmakers of your views on S. 397/H.R. 800, encourage them to vote in favor of these bills without anti-gun amendments, and let them know you`ll keep their votes in mind on Election Day! Keep your letter brief (one page, one issue), with just enough facts and figures to bolster your position. Never make a statement you can`t back up with evidence. Let your lawmakers know how predatory lawsuits against the gun industry affect you and other constituents personally. If you own a business, use your company letterhead. If you`re a member of the PTA or other civic group, don`t hesitate to mention that. Finally, always ask for a response to your letter. You`ll want a hard copy of your legislators` positions on these issues for future reference and for documentation. Always send copies of any responses you receive to NRA-ILA`s Grassroots Division.

E-MAIL: Virtually all congressional offices allow for constituent e-mail. 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 message that may not specifically address your concern. Whether you receive a direct response to your message or not, be sure that you request your lawmaker`s position in writing so you can document his or her position easily. Forward this response to ILA Grassroots for our information and records.

PHONE 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 especially if you don`t have e-mail), your phone calls become the most effective means for you to communicate your views. Since you usually will not be speaking directly to your elected official, be sure to ask to speak to the staffer who handles firearm-related issues. Contact with congressional staff is critical to the process, as staff has major input with lawmakers and expertise on most issues on which legislators will vote, including gun-related issues.

FAXING: Faxing allows you to quickly send a full, letter-length message to your representatives for just the cost of a phone call. When preparing a fax message to a lawmaker, follow the same basic guidelines as when mailing a letter via U.S. Mail. Include your fax number so your legislator can respond to you via fax.

PERSONAL MEETINGS: By far the most effective, and the most difficult, method to communicate with your lawmakers is at a personal meeting. Be sure to schedule your meeting in advance (usually in a home district, not Washington, D.C., office). If the lawmaker isn`t personally available, schedule a meeting with the staff member responsible for firearm issues. Try to limit attendees at your meeting to five to ensure the meeting flows smoothly and doesn`t get bogged down. Use ILA`s website or contact the Grassroots Division to procure materials to leave behind with the lawmaker/staff member for his or her reference. Bring enough copies for everyone who attends the meeting, plus copies for the lawmaker if he or she can`t attend. Regardless of how your meeting goes, send a letter to your legislator or staff person thanking him or her for his or her time, and reiterating the points you discussed. This gesture will go a long way, and possibly allow for future meetings.

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. These meetings afford a prime opportunity for you to ask your lawmakers to state their position on S. 397/H.R. 800 for the record in an open and public forum. Contact your lawmakers and ask to be put on the invitation list for the lawmaker`s town hall meetings. If they do not have a complete 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 with the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division so we may alert your fellow NRA members and encourage them to attend as well. Ask your question clearly, and as simply as possible, e.g., "What is your position on S. 397/H.R. 800--legislation to halt lawsuits against the firearm industry?" Whether you had the opportunity to ask your question at the meeting or not, follow up with a letter to your lawmaker. 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 that you should also share with ILA Grassroots.

By utilizing these strategies when contacting your lawmakers in support of S. 397/H.R. 800 without any anti-gun amendments, and sharing this information with your family, friends, and fellow firearm owners so they may do the same, our voices in the legislative process will be greatly amplified. And once and for all, we can transform this legislative proposal into statutory reality!

As always, if you need more information, please contact ILA`s Grassroots Division or visit www.NRAILA.org.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.