What Can I Do?

Why It Is Important To Call Your Legislators:

Calling your legislators about pending legislation is the single, most important thing you can do apart from voting. It is more effective than sending email or mailing a letter.  Calling ties up legislative office staff and is immediately noticed by the legislator and/or the office manager for that legislator.  When constituents call a legislative office, those calls are often tallied to measure the volume of support or opposition to a bill.

Who Do I Call And When?
First, you need to determine whether the bill under consideration is a Connecticut State legislative matter or a national legislative matter. You don’t want to call your U.S. Congressman or U.S. Senator to talk about a State bill being considered in Hartford.

Second, for Connecticut legislative matters, you need to know whether the bill is in Committee, or already out of Committee(s) and on its way to the floor for a vote.  The first phase of a bill is a Public Hearing, then a Committee hearing and vote. It is important to call the Committee members hearing that bill for two reasons. (1) our best chance of defeating anti gun legislation is while the bill is still in the Committee which introduced it, so it never reaches a final vote.  (2), your own local, state legislator may not be on that Committee and will know nothing about the Bill until it gets to the floor of the General Assembly for a final vote.

Third, it is important for you to know who your legislators are (both State and Federal).  Follow the links provided in the left hand column to find your legislators.  You should call your legislators and the respective Committee hearing the bill whenever the bill is announced for Public Hearing; being voted on in Committee and last but not least, when the bill reaches the legislative floor for a vote.

What To Say When You Call Your Legislators:
Your call should be short, polite and to the point. A generic example for a calling script concerning a piece of anti-gun legislation could be something like this:
“Good morning, my name is ____________ and I reside in ______(name of city/town or legislator’s district). I am opposed to Bill number S.1234 or H.5678 because I do not believe it will make us safer. Furthermore, I believe it will only serve to negatively impact law abiding citizens and is contrary to our rights under the Constitution. I believe we need to enforce existing laws instead.  Thank you….”
If the bill is more specific, you can make reference to a specific point, but don’t ramble on about your gun collection, your sport, the legislators’ perceived lack of knowledge about the issue, etc. Above all, never sound belligerent or hostile over the phone, even if the text or some part of the bill makes you upset. That will only serve to hurt the perception of your fellow gun owners and sportsmen with legislators.
When a legislator’s office is getting bombarded with short, concise calls under one minute in length, that legislator will know there is a “hot button” or “hot potato” issue on the table. And such issues are the types of situations legislators want to avoid.
Email can be stored, ignored, or deleted. Although emails and letters may be read and do have their place in further developing the reason behind any opposition (or support) for proposed legislation, they should be the second thing you do as a follow up to your phone call.
Calling increases the chances that a pending piece of legislation that is harmful to gun rights will be defeated in the Committee it was introduced in; or in at least getting the matter tabled or “watered down” with “teeth” removed. Conversely, on those occasions when a bill is under consideration that is positive, calling in support helps to advance the bill.

 

DO’s and DON’Ts When Attending Scheduled Public Hearings:

***DO’s***

DO dress well and come early – preferably around 8am.

DO sign up along with anyone coming with you.

DO give 45 copies of your testimony to the clerk.

DO practice and rehearse your spoken testimony before the hearing. Keep it under three (3) minutes.

DO sign up your name in the roster just inside the hearing room and indicate whether you OPPOSE or SUPPORT.

DO address the legislators politely and answer questions if asked. If you are not comfortable or prepared to answer a question reply gracefully, “Representative/Senator, I will have to look into your question and get back to you”.

DO “PASS” when called to speak if you are uncomfortable or simply wish to move the process along so that the key speaker(s) from your group can get called up faster.

DO register and sign in – even if you are only observing, so the Committee sees your name added to the list of those opposed to the bill. We want to greatly outnumber the anti-gun side.

DO be prepared to spend the entire day, possibly into the evening hours if you intend to speak.

DO be courteous and respectful of the legislators, regardless of their opinion as well as respectful and courteous to all who testify – including the anti gun opposition if you are stuck near them.

DO realize there will be elected and/or appointed officials coming in and out of the hearing room all day. They are NOT limited to 3 minutes of speaking time and can “bump” you in speaking order.

DO realize there will be other bills not related to our gun bill being heard the same day.  Testimony will be interspersed with people testifying on totally unrelated subjects to ours.

DO say “thank you” to the legislators for the opportunity to speak – if you pass one in the hall, ride down the elevator or sit near one at lunch time.

***DON’Ts***

DO NOT come to a hearing with ANY weapon (gun, knife, scissors, etc) in your possession. This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised.

DO NOT come dressed inappropriately (i.e., T-shirts, “Come and Take It” and related slogans, Gadsden Flag wear, camo outfits, etc.) This is NOT a tea party rally. This is an official legislative hearing. Media will be there and anyone looking like the stereotypical “gun guy” by their definition, will be zoomed in on and televised to the public – hurting gun owners’ images permanently. Business Professional attire preferred. Business Casual at a minimum.

DO NOT clap, boo, or otherwise disrupt the hearing.  This has been a problem at recent hearings by those not trained in the etiquette of Public Hearings.

DO NOT talk on your cell phone. Turn your cell to vibrate. If you have to use your cell phone, get up and quietly walk out of the hearing room into the lobby to use it.

DO NOT walk around the back to where the legislators are seated, you will be immediately arrested.

DO NOT eat or drink in the hearing room. Taking sips from a water bottle stored in your bag seems to be ok because it’s not messy or disruptive – but don’t walk into the hearing room and tear open a bag of chips or slobber away at a pizza. Eat lunch outside. There is a cafe there with usual serving times, and it’s not a bad place to hang out and converse with your peers.

 

Advertisements