Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some Good Advice On Writing To Politicians

Grant Cunningham, revolversmith, trainer, and blogger, had an excellent post yesterday on writing to those in Congress. As he notes with regard to Feinstein's anticipated assault weapons (sic) ban, "If we, the shooting community, don't act immediately her little scheme might just work."

This is one fight that we can't leave to the NRA, GOA, NSSF, or SAF. They do work but can only do so much. We have to get in there and do some heavy lifting.

Grant lists a series of things he's learned about communicating with Congress. Many of them aren't new but do bear repeating. I'm just going to list the high points and urge you to read his full blog post.
  • Unless they know you personally, the Senator or Representative will never see your letter themselves. It will be read and tabulated by staffers.
  • Aides are young and idealistic. Be nice to them.
  • Don't use paper - fax, e-mail, or call. This is due to the anthrax scare of a few years ago.
  • Don't write a book. Be concise and to the point.
  • If you aren't a constituent of that particular Representative or Senator, it will be ignored.
  • Make sure your name and address are in the letter.
  • Make sure your e-mail has a subject.
  • Form letters are nearly useless. Don't use them.
  • Any response you get will be a form letter. It is just the way it is.
I'm starting to collect letters that we can use as a basis for writing both state and national representatives. I will be posting the better ones for you to use and would urge you to modify them to suit you. There is no need for you or me to reinvent the wheel. We are all in this together and need to work smarter, not harder.

If you have a good letter, send to me by e-mail at jpr9954 AT gmail DOT com.


  1. I have to take issue with the "form letters are useless." That's incorrect. Using the GRNC form letter via email is a good way of pointing out to the person you are sending email to that there is an organization gunning for them.

    Let's be honest here. When a politician says "I'd rather get one good letter than 1000 form letters," he's lying. He'd rather get no letters at all.

    When he gets 1000 form letters he knows that there is an organization that can change 1000 votes, and he'd better get on the right side of that organization before he loses those votes. Politicians work on the "heat and light" principle. Once they feel the heat, they see the light.

    If you are on the mailing list of State of National gun rights groups and you get sent a form letter, send it. Add your voice to the masses. That way when the representative from that organization shows up in the politician's office, the pol knows that the rep can cause him political pain. Even flatworms move away from painful stimuli.

    1. Errr, the author didn't say what you put in quotes, he said "Form letters are nearly useless".

      I'm sure they have much less impact than a short, to the point original letter you draft, perhaps in part cribbed from a supplied form letter. Or even just a "Please, no new gun control."

    2. Except that even that statement "mostly useless" is wrong. They are very useful. I know that it's fashionable to believe that political representatives actually care what you think, but the reality is that they only care what 1000 people think. Until they know that an issue group is tracking them, they don't honestly care about your opinion.

      Feel free to send in a nice handwritten letter or fax, but make sure to also send in those form emails.

    3. I think both are useful but for different reasons. The mass form emails signify the level of interest or discontent on an issue while the individually written letter stands out from the pack. Because it stands out from the pack, it may get more attention.

      When you get a form response which is the norm, don't stop there. Write again and quote their form response and push for more details. When you get the next response, do the same.

      One other thing I'd add is that if you were a contributor to their campaign even if it was for $10, point it out. It signifies that not only are you someone who is a constituent but you are someone who has put your money where you mouth is and sent them money. I.e, you are one of their stronger supporters.