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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

 

The NRA Is regularly identified as one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the country. That means the NRA is a potent force fighting in Congress and the state legislatures to protect our right to keep and bear arms.

Particularly in recent years, NRA has also earned a reputation for being a very effective political organization, working to elect pro Second Amendment candidates at the federal and state level.

The success NRA has in both these areas is dependent on the same resource: NRA members.

Without the hard work of tens of thousands of NRA members, NRA would not be as effective. In fact, without our dedicated members, our rights would likely have been eliminated years ago. Because of that, I salute our members and their determination to win each and every battle.

This year we are going to need that support and hard work more than ever.
We face the opportunity to set back our opponents’ agenda for years, or see anti-gun politicians advance that agenda significantly. It all depends on the outcome of the election this November. That is why I regularly call on our members to become activists so that we can prevail.

But sometimes I am asked, “How do I get involved beyond just voting?” That’s a good question, so this is the first of two articles on political activism that aim to equip every NRA member with the basic information they need to become a more effective activist, and how to work with NRA to win.

Get Informed

The first step is to get armed with information. Without it, none of us can be effective advocates for the Second Amendment.

There are two types of information every NRA member should have. First is an understanding of the issues we face. We all know the basics, but better knowledge of the details makes a huge difference. The NRA-ILA website should be your first stop (www.NRAILA.org). There is information on the site about legislative and political efforts in every state as well as at the federal level. That information is invaluable to understand the legislation we oppose and that which we support.

The next kind of knowledge we all need is the stance of the candidates. We must know who supports our rights, and who does not. Sometimes this information is clear and easy to find. Incumbents have records, and their votes show where they really stand. Those votes can almost always be found online, and NRA-ILA can help you locate where to look. [Call 1-800-392-vote (8683) for help locating voting records.] Many candidates, incumbents and challengers put issue information on their campaign web sites. A quick search online will turn up a lot of information.

And of course, use your local media. Local newspapers often cover issues and local politicians that the national media ignore.

Finally, look for opportunities to attend events where politicians are speaking. Whether they are called “Town Hall” meetings, or something else, it is a chance to hear from your representatives and to ask questions. Even if you do not get a chance to ask the candidate directly, take the initiative to talk to his or her staff, they can often answer your questions and hear your concerns.

And if you have not signed up for NRA-ILA’s email alerts, do that now at
www.NRAILA.org/get-involved-locally/secure/stay-informed.aspx.

Start Close To Home

Once you are armed with the right information, the first thing every member should do is make sure their family, friends and neighbors who share the desire to save our rights are registered to vote. If you’re not signed up, you can’t make a difference. The good news is that registering to vote has never been easier. You can register at any DMV office, many other government offices and by mail. You can also go to the NRA-ILA website and get the process started. (www.NRAILA.org/get-involved-locally/grassroots/register-to-vote.aspx)

This may seem like an obvious thing, but far too many potential voters
are not registered. Plus the act of registering makes it more likely that on
(or before) Election Day a person will cast their ballot.

And remember, voting is no longer limited to Election Day. Early voting has never been easier and as a result is becoming more and more popular with a significant portion of the vote being cast weeks before the first Tuesday in November. So we each need to know what the laws are locally so that we can give friends and family the right information. Just as most campaigns have done, we also need to begin our efforts early in the election cycle. Gone are the days when we could wait until October before paying attention to the coming election.

Volunteer

NRA is not a partisan organization. Gun owners have allies on both sides of the aisle. Once you know where the candidates stand, you have a number of choices. The parties have organizations at the national, state and local levels. They sign up volunteers at each level, so look for the level that best represents your interests in protecting the Second Amendment. State and local party organizations will also be able to help you get in contact with specific candidates.

You can also look for advocacy groups that are working in your area. These groups are usually national, but often have state or even local operations in key areas. In this space next month, I will tell you about what NRA has planned, and how you can get directly involved with our efforts. But don’t wait to get involved. Call NRA-ILA with questions about other groups. We can let you know if they stand with us.

Working for the parties can involve many things. Walking precincts and manning phone banks are traditional efforts. But we are in a new age. The parties are also using electronic and social media to magnify the impact of the effort, and volunteers can help in those areas as well. For those of you who are comfortable working in the party structure, this is a very effective way to advance our cause.

Get Active

As important as the parties are to the operation of our elections, we do not need to rely on them to be active.

As individuals we have a great opportunity to make a huge difference. To start with, we can impact the debate by writing letters to the editor. Use the local media to get the word out about the importance of protecting our rights, and to let others know who our allies and opponents are. Encourage your friends to do the same. The more letters the media get on our issues, the better. And don’t ignore the online resources. Just about every newspaper has an online version and most have provisions for comments or even guest writers. Use this resource. But please remember it is always important to keep the debate civil and respectful.

It used to be said that freedom of the press was really only for those who owned one, but that no longer applies. The cyber world has changed how we debate and communicate, and gun owners need to use this resource to its maximum. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are tools that every person can use to advance our cause and help inform others about the issues and about the candidates. Online groups are an important way to learn and pass along information, and to increase our numbers. And individual email lists can be used to communicate directly with allies about campaign events and opportunities to get involved.

You do not need a political party or a campaign to host a political event. Having friends and neighbors to your home for a political party is a great way to share information. Often, if you contact local candidates and work with their schedules, the candidate will make time to attend these events. This level of personal commitment to an issue and a candidate can have a big impact on attendees. Don’t hesitate to invite those who are undecided on the candidates. Those are the people we most need to influence.

Next month, I will discuss the importance of volunteering and working for the individual candidates as well as getting involved with NRA-ILA’s campaign operations.

This is a vital election, but with your active support this can be the year that we fortify our right to keep and bear arms for years to come.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Chris W. Cox 2014 Elections
Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

NRA-ILA Executive Director

Follow This Contributor

As NRA's chief lobbyist and principal political strategist, Chris W. Cox oversees nine NRA Institute for Legislative Action divisions – Federal Affairs, State & Local Affairs, Public Affairs, Research & Information, Grassroots, Hunting/Conservation/Wildlife, Office of Legislative Counsel, External Affairs (International) and Fiscal. He also serves as president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which conducts non-partisan voter registration and citizen education, and chairman of NRA Country, which brings country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

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NRA ILA

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.