By J. Noble Daggett
I am a congressional staffer for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. I live in my Congressman’s district, not D.C. As such I am on the front line of communicating with voters and constituents, relay their sentiments to my boss, the Congressman.
I am also a gun owner who takes multiple training classes annually, carries daily and is a dues-paying member of two gun rights organizations. Over the last few days, I have received dozens of faxes and other communications from pro-gun rights individuals expressing their views on bills that are currently under consideration in Washington.
Sadly, most of these opinions will have no impact at all because of how they were communicated with our office. So, with multiple bills being proposed and/or filed that would directly impact those of us in the gun-owning community, I would like to offer a few suggestions how best to communicate with your Representatives’ offices.
If you call, email or fax, please give your name, address, and phone number. If you won’t tell me who you are I can’t enter it into the computer system.
Most of the faxes I received had no name, address or phone number attached. This is also important because elected officials are more likely to listen to those people who can vote for them.
A congressman most likely doesn’t care what you think if you live three states away from him. That might not seem right or fair, but it is the truth. They always prioritize constituents who live in their district or state and can vote in the next election.
When you give me your name and address, I can see not only if you’re a constituent, but also if you are a voter. Our office records comments from voters and non-voters alike, but I am not sure all offices do. Again, elected officials are always more likely to listen to those who can vote for them.
While I get a lot of faxes, emails and phone calls are best. I am not saying no one pays attention to mass faxes generated from a website, but personal contact is always more effective. Even if you simply re-write a form letter into your own words, it shows that you cared enough to put the time and effort into the communication.
If you call your Representative’s D.C. office, you most often will talk to an intern. They generally know little or nothing. Don’t expect an intelligent discussion of the issue you’re calling about. Give them your contact info, the bill number (if possible) or the issue and your opinion.
Ask for a written reply. You will get a form letter on the issue, but it confirms that your opinion was recorded. That’s the important part.
Calling local offices in your state most often will get you someone more knowledgeable, but they also are focused on helping folks with a range of problems dealing with the government. Don’t be surprised if you know more than they do on the issue you’re calling about.
If you are abusive, they will hang up. I will give you one F-bomb of leeway before I cut you off. Don’t be that guy. Being polite goes a long way.
We all are more likely to listen to people we know and trust. If you can, develop a line of communication with your Representatives before a critical issue comes up.
Send a Christmas card. Stop by the local office and introduce yourself. Invite the Congressman or a staff member to a local gun shop or range. Ask if you or your group could have a meeting with the Congressman at his local office.
You would be surprised at how often regular citizens just like you do that. Our Chief of Staff was invited to a local gun store and had a great visit where they explained the difference between a rifle, an SBR and a pistol with a stabilizing brace.
Do not be surprised by how little they know. Instead, educate them. Remember you are the subject matter expert. Be proactive and build those relationships. It can and does pay off down the road.
As a gun owner and strong supporter of gun rights I want to urge you to get involved by contacting your Congressman and Senators. You would be surprised at how few people actually reach out to them them about issues.
If you think your elected official is solidly on your side, contact them and thank him for it. If you think it’s a waste of time because they are rabidly anti-gun, contact them anyway. If we want to protect our rights we have to communicate, educate, and vote.
J. Noble Daggett the ‘nom de plume’ of a staffer for a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives.