This feature appears in the June ’16 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
The NRA is often identified as one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the country. That means the NRA is a potent force fighting in Congress and the state legislatures to protect the right to keep and bear arms.
In recent years in particular, the NRA has earned a reputation for having a very effective political operation, working to elect pro-Second Amendment candidates at the federal and state levels.
But our continued success depends on our most powerful asset: NRA members.
Without the hard work of millions of NRA members, we would not succeed. In fact, without you, our rights likely would have been eliminated years ago. For that I salute you and your determination to win each and every battle.
This year we face the daunting task of stopping Hillary Clinton. It’s a fight we cannot afford to lose if we want to save our firearm freedoms. But while it’s a tremendous challenge, it’s also a great opportunity. We can join the fight, get involved and defeat Hillary—or we can sit on the sidelines and allow our opponents to radically transform our country into something we no longer recognize.She has said that the Supreme Court “got it wrong” on the historic Heller decision and that we should look at imposing Australian-style gun confiscation in the United States.
Many often ask how they can get involved beyond just voting. To answer that, we’re publishing the first of two articles on political activism that will equip all NRA members with the information they need to achieve success in this fall’s elections.
The first step is to arm yourself with information. Without it, none of us can be effective advocates for the Second Amendment.
There are two types of information every NRA member should have. First, we need an understanding of the issues we face. We all know the basics, but to really make a difference, better knowledge of the details makes a huge difference. The NRA-ILA website should be your first stop. There is information on the site about legislative and political efforts at the state and federal levels. This information is vital to understanding our daily fight to preserve the Second Amendment.
Second, it is important to have as much information as possible about those who are running for elected office. We must know who supports our rights, and who does not. Sometimes this information is clear and easy to find. Incumbents have records, and their votes show where they stand. Those votes can almost always be found online, and NRA-ILA can help you locate where to look. You can call (800) 392-vote (8683) for help locating voting records. Many candidates, incumbents and challengers also put issue information on their campaign websites. A quick search online will turn up a lot of information.
And, of course, use your local media. Hometown newspapers and media outlets often cover issues and local politicians in more depth than the national news media outlets do.
Finally, look for opportunities to attend events where politicians are speaking.
Whether they are called “town hall” meetings or something else, these are great chances to hear from your representatives and ask questions. Even if you don’t get to ask the candidate directly, talk to his or her staff; they can often answer your questions and address your concerns.
And if you have not signed up for NRA-ILA’s email alerts, I encourage you to do so by clicking here.
Start Close To Home
Once armed with the correct information, the first thing every member should do is make sure their family, friends and neighbors who share the desire to save our rights are registered to vote. If you’re not signed up, you can’t make a difference. The good news is that registering to vote has never been easier. While each state has slightly different rules, you can generally register where you renew your driver’s license or by mail. You can also here and start the process.Campaigns are constantly looking for volunteers. Once you’ve determined which candidates support your Second Amendment-protected freedoms, reaching out to help them is another way to get involved.
This may seem like an obvious requirement, but far too many potential voters are not registered. Every freedom-loving patriot needs to be registered to vote—we can’t afford to leave anyone on the sidelines.
And remember, voting no longer happens just on Election Day. In many states, early voting has never been easier and is becoming more common, with a significant portion of the vote being cast weeks before Election Day. As a result, we need to begin our efforts early in every election cycle. Gone are the days when we could wait until October before ramping up our efforts in a given election.
Once you know where the candidates stand, you have a number of choices. NRA-ILA has election volunteer coordinators and campaign field representatives throughout the country. We try to make it easy for folks to connect with our staff at the grassroots level. If you have questions about who is currently working in your community, do not hesitate to contact us and we can provide that information.
In addition, campaigns are constantly looking for volunteers. Once you’ve determined which candidates support your Second Amendment-protected freedoms, reaching out to help them is another way to get involved.
You can also look for other advocacy groups that are working in your area. These groups are usually national, but often have state or even local operations in key areas. In this space next month, I will tell you about what the NRA has planned and how you can get directly involved with our efforts. But don’t wait to get involved. Call NRA-ILA with questions about other groups. We can let you know if they stand with us.
Working at the grassroots level can involve many things. Walking precincts and manning phone banks are traditional efforts. But we are in a new age. Now, electronic and social media outreach is a key part of every campaign, and volunteers can help in those areas as well.
As individuals working together, we have a great opportunity to make a difference. One way to affect the debate is by writing letters to the editor. Use the local media to get the word out about the importance of protecting our rights, and to let others know the positions of candidates running for office. Encourage your friends to do the same. The more letters the media outlets get on our issues, the better. And don’t ignore the online resources. Just about every newspaper has an online version, and most have provisions for comments or even guest writers. Use this resource. But please remember it is always important to keep the debate civil and respectful. Our opponents may be wrong on the issues, but name-calling and insults do not advance our cause.Inviting friends and neighbors to your home is a great way to share information. Don’t hesitate to invite those who are undecided on the candidates. Those are the people we most need to influence.
It used to be said that freedom of the press was available only for those who owned a newspaper, but the Internet makes that no longer true. It has changed how we debate and communicate, so gun owners need to use this resource to its fullest. Social media sites can be used by anyone to advance our cause and inform others about the issues and the candidates. Online groups are an important way to learn and pass along information.
And individual email lists can be used to communicate directly with like-minded folks about campaign events and opportunities to get involved.
It doesn’t take a political party or a campaign to host a political event. Inviting friends and neighbors to your home is a great way to share information. Often, if you contact local candidates and work with their schedules, they will make time to attend these events. This level of personal commitment to an issue and a candidate can have a big impact on attendees. Don’t hesitate to invite those who are undecided on the candidates. Those are the people we most need to influence.
Friends, the stakes in this election could not be higher. Hillary Clinton wants to eliminate our Second Amendment-protected rights. She has said that the Supreme Court “got it wrong” on the historic Heller decision and that we should look at imposing Australian-style gun confiscation in the United States. Each of us must dedicate ourselves to ensuring that she doesn’t get the opportunity to impose her anti-freedom agenda on the American people.