Influencing votes on proposed legislation requires reaching out to your elected officials to ask them for their support (either voting for a bill or voting against it).
We get it. If you’ve not written, called or visited your elected officials before, it can be a bit intimidating. But trust us, it’s not that bad.
We wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important… really important.
You see, we often hear elected officials tell us the only people they hear from are typically advocating for looser gun regulation. And, those people have every right to contact their elected officials and express their views.
So do you.
After all, the elected official is there to consider the views of all of their constituents… and you are one of them.
Here’s how you do it.
1. Find out who your elected officials are. Depending upon whether the legislation is at the Federal or State level, this will be whomever is serving in one or more of these offices:
Federal Legislation —
U.S. Senators for Pennsylvania: Two, each serves the entire state (Click on a link below to reach their “contacts” page.)
U.S. Representatives for Eastern PA: One per congressional district.
If you don’t know who your U.S. Representative is, click here. That site will tell you who your Congressman is, and take you to their site where you can find contact information.
You have a PA state senator and a PA state representative. If you don’t know who they are, click here. That same site can also provide you with contact information.
2. Plan your message.
You don’t need to prepare a speech or write a book. Simply stating why you’re contacting them and your “ask” is fine. For example: “I am calling Senator Toomey to ask him to vote “no” on (BILL # and TITLE.) I believe this bill would (Your Position.)”
3. Make contact.
Now, we need to warn you, that especially in the Federal offices, you’ll be asked for your name and address and/or email and possibly home address.
This makes some of us a bit nervous.
Remind yourself of the following:
- These offices routinely ask for this information
- They get hundreds of requests each week
- You’re asking someone who was elected to represent your interests to listen to your views
So, how to make contact?
We’ve heard lots of answers from staff members as to the most effective” way to contact them.
Here’s our suggestion…pick the one you’re comfortable with.
- Call one of their offices (and you’ll likely leave a message)
- Write, and mail, a letter*
- Send an Email
- Stop by one of the offices
* Let’s face it — not as many people use the U.S. Mail today. So, several staff members reported a letter may get more attention because it stands out. However, you’d need to mail the letter well in advance of the anticipated vote. We want to be sure the office receives it in time.
Whichever method you use, please be polite. Do not threaten the elected official or staff. It’s not nice and it won’t be well received. And really, is that who we want to be?
Simply state your position, make your request, and thank the person for the official’s consideration.
4. Watch and wait.
If the elected official takes the action you’ve requested, get in touch to say ,”Thanks, I appreciate it!”
If the elected official did not take that action, you may say, “I was disappointed to see….”
That’s all there is to it. It’s really not that bad.
Hey, you may soon get to the point you’ve got your elected officials on “speed dial.”
Good for you. You’ve now taken your participation in our “participatory democracy” to the next level. You’ve set a great example for us all!
An “Extra Credit” Opportunity!
We also work to develop relationships with the elected officials and key staff. To do that, we have volunteer constituents meet with their officials. Don’t worry, we provide talking points and support. And, a Gun Sense Board Member will typically attend with you.
So, if you’d be willing to get to meet with your elected officials and/or their staff, let us know! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org