Monday, July 18, 2016

Updated: Urging Congress To Do Their Job: Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Urging Congress To Do Their Job
Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Advocacy Toolkit 

Table of Contents
1) Introduction and Background Information
2) Instructions for Letter Drop
3) Sample letter to your Representative to Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation
4) Social Media
5) Primary Objectives of Letter Drop

Introduction and Background Information

After the historic and unprecedented Democratic sit-in on the House floor Wednesday June 22 to urge the House to take up what it has long ignored – preventing gun violence – it is now up to us, people of faith, to take this message to our Representatives.

This is a perfect time for you to let your Representative know that ignoring the epidemic of gun violence will not protect public safety. Every day 91 people in the United States are killed by a gun. Yet, the House and Senate continue to act as if this is not happening because of the stifling grip of the gun lobby.

What is more, according to Everytown for Gun Safety gun violence is becoming increasingly used as part of hate crimes directed towards members of the LGBTQ community as we saw in Orlando. Consider these facts:
Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that between 2010 and 2014, there were an estimated 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States that involved guns.
More than half (52 percent) of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are violent.
Between 2004 and 2012, the percentage of hate crimes involving violence increased from 78 percent to 90 percent.
In studies going back decades, assaults involving guns have proven to be five times more likely to end in the death of the victim than those involving knives, and the difference is even greater with high-caliber guns. 

Simple measures can greatly reduce many of the mass shootings to which we have become accustomed. No one law will stop every incident of gun deaths, but we can go a long way toward having a safer community, a safer nation, a safer world. Simply put, universal background checks saves lives. In states that require a background check for all handgun sales, there are:
·      46 percent fewer women shot to death by intimate partners,
·      48 percent fewer law enforcement shot to death with handguns,
·      48 percent fewer people killed by firearms suicide,
·      48 percent less gun trafficking, and
·      52 percent fewer mass shootings.

Therefore, we must take this unique time to urge members of Congress that gun violence can be drastically reduced and they must take leadership in making this happen. 

Instructions for Letter Drop

Use this toolkit with your congregation, faith group, or coalition and invite them to join with you in making a powerful impact.

Materials Needed: A sign on letter adapted from the below template (you can edit it), sign on sheet, clipboards, pens, small table (optional)
See the sample letter on the next page (which can be edited). With others from your congregation or organization, read through and modify the letter to best describe what you want to share with your Representative and/or Senator for them to do on addressing gun violence. List yourself or another point person’s contact information at the top of the letter or on a cover sheet so you can receive the reply from the member of Congress.
Find your member of Congress and the address of their local office closest to you. Click HERE to find your Representative. Click HERE to find your Senator.

Work with others in your congregation or community group to get signatures on the letter in a high-traffic area after a worship service or event. You can send it around adult education classes, Bible/book studies, youth groups, and college classes in addition to your entire congregation. Ask the members you know are willing to sign first – people are more likely to sign something when they already see other names. We are encouraging groups to not drop it off until you are able to 10-15 signatures. The more you are able to gather, the more powerful it will be!

Make sure an announcement is made about the letter in the congregation bulletin, from the pulpit, and through social media. The most effective way to get folks to sign is through personal invitation. You and others should personally invite folks to sign the letter! Before you turn in the signatures, make sure to scan them or take a photo with your phone in order to capture the contact information for your future organizing efforts.
Call your Representative’s local office to either schedule a meeting with the Representative or a staff person, or even to simply find out the hours when they are open, so you can drop off the letters. 
When you get to the office here is a possible script: "Hi, my name is [NAME] and I am a member of [Congregation/Group] in [City]. Many of our members signed this letter to urge Representative [NAME] to pass gun violence prevention legislation on July 5th when the current recess is over. Will you please make sure the Representative and appropriate staff see this letter?"

When you and a friend (or friends) take your letter by your Representatives’ office take a selfie and tweet it out using the hashtag #LetterDrop. (You can also use hashtags like #StopGunViolence or #NoBillNoBreak as well.) That way we can see all who participate and those of us in DC can collect the pics and use them in advocacy to get the House and Senate moving. So, please tweet or send us your pictures!

Share this toolkit with key leaders from 3-4 other congregations in your area and urge them to do this as well. This will make an impact with a number of faith communities engaged. Make sure they also post pictures on social media! Email them this message and then call them for the best effect. Nothing beats a phone call to get folks moving! 

Sample Letter Urging Congress to Pass Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

Dear Representative/Senator                       ,

As members of                    (name of faith community)           we are deeply concerned about the lack of progress by the Congress in addressing the epidemic of gun violence. As the days, months, and years go by without any action taken, more mass shootings occur and the needless loss of life continues. We are writing to demand that action be taken to quell the terrible epidemic of gun violence our society is suffering.

Virginia Tech, Tucson, Oak Creek, Aurora, Santa Clara, Fort Hood, Newtown, San Bernadino, and now Orlando. The number of cities with mass shootings spreads across the states in our nation and fills our hearts with tremendous sorrow for the tragic and unnecessary loss of life. We are also angry that these tragedies continue without any congressional leadership being taken. No more time can be wasted. Gun violence is taking an unacceptable toll on our society, in mass killings and in the constant day-to-day of senseless deaths. It is long past time for action.

Not only are we concerned about gun violence, but it must also be mentioned that we are concerned about the rhetoric in this debate that scapegoats our Muslim sisters and brothers. Violence committed by people of any religious, ethnic, or racial profile for any intention is devastating – focus on the secretive, error-filled terrorist watch list as a substitute for meaningful gun safety legislation is a distraction.  The vast majority of mass shootings in the U.S. have been committed by white males whose intentions to do violence would not have qualified them for inclusion on this list.

We need you to take action to ensure that:
   Every person who buys a gun no matter where that takes place should pass a background check. No longer should we allow for a gun show loophole.
   High-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to civilians. There is no legitimate self-defense or sporting purpose for these military-style, high-capacity weapons and magazines whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time. We need an effective assault weapons ban now.

Public support for these measures is overwhelming. The time for merely offering thoughts and prayers without necessary action is over. Compromises that scapegoat a narrowly defined group of people for scrutiny is an unacceptable distraction for a problem shared by our whole society.  We need you to take action. We look forward to working with you to enact these common-sense measures to reduce gun violence. Our prayers are with you, our support is behind you. It is time for you to lead.


Social Media

Social media is a great way to spread the word about these issues and to get your friends, family, and other community members involved. Using popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we encourage you to post a picture of your letters and/or your meetings with your congressman/woman using #LetterDrop. If you are not able to meet with your congressman/woman take a picture holding up the signed letter with #LetterDrop, and you might also use the hashtags, #NoBillNoBreak or #StopGunViolence. And, as always, encourage your friends and family to share on social media and join the movement!

Letter Drop Primary Objectives

We want everyone everywhere, regardless of what district you are in to take part in the Letter Drop. It’s important that our voices are heard from every states in the religious community.