How to Write an Effective Letter to Congress About Gun Control

by DANNY RUBIN

After a month of anticipation, President Obama unveiled his gun proposals Wednesday in the wake of the Newtown massacre.

The president offered 23 initiatives that cover a range of gun issues. Among them:

- universal background check for gun sales

- reinstatement of an assault weapons ban

- capping ammunition magazines to a 10-round limit

- providing schools with resource officers and school counselors

Now, the proposals head to Congress where we can expect a tense battle, and it’s unclear if any of the 23 reforms will actually become law. Whether you favor Obama’s push for gun control or would prefer that the president leave our 2nd Amendment alone, now is the time to tell your elected leaders how you feel.

how to write a letter to congress
On Wednesday, President Obama proposed 23 gun control reforms in the wake of the Newtown shootings. Whether any of these initiatives become law…is up to us.

How to Write an Effective Letter to Congress About Gun Control

Sam Schwartz, an outreach representative for Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), often reads constituent letters (or emails). Schwartz has several tips to ensure your letter to Congress makes the most impact.

1. Keep it short

You might have 2,000 words to say on gun control, but a busy Senator or Representative (or their aides) may not have time to read the entire letter.

Schwartz: ‘It’s easier to focus on your main point if your letter is brief. If the message is two pages long, it’s more difficult to locate your central argument.’

2. Be specific

Use statistics, research and concrete information to make your case. Statements like ‘I think that…’ aren’t going to grab the reader’s attention or present a firm argument.

Schwartz: ‘We read every letter that comes into our office, and the Senator gets weekly reports on what’s on the minds of  Virginians. Especially compelling messages are shared directly with the Senator.”

3. Know your elected leader’s position on gun control

As you write the letter, be aware of your elected official’s position on gun control and how he/she has voted on measures in the past. Schwartz says that his office keeps a running tally of all letters (broken down by zip code) for or against an issue.

Schwartz: ‘Letters to Sen. Warner really do help inform him on certain topics.”

4. Consider bold print

Schwartz says that his office keeps a record of compelling arguments in constituents’ letters. To make sure your brilliant insight isn’t overlooked, think about highlighting key phrases in bold. Then, they will be tough to miss.

Schwartz: ‘It’s helpful any time someone can introduce new facts or opinions on an issue. We take the letters seriously, and they can influence policy.’

What do you think of President Obama’s gun control proposals? Do you expect any of them to become law? Do you think it was appropriate to have children on stage with him while he spoke?

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