In a sign that we are returning to “normal” after a year of pandemicking, we’ve had seven mass shootings in seven days — Yay, American exceptionalism, I guess — and two that were particularly horrific. Eight dead at three Asian-themed Atlanta-area massage parlors and ten dead including a police officer at a grocery store in Boulder plunging us all into the futile gun safety debate with the Q-Pubes and other conservatives in Congress and on our social media.
All the talking pundits on the cable news shows assure us that the vast majority of Americans support the passage of national gun safety measures, even gun owners! even NRA members! even Repbubes! How could that possibly be true? If it were true, we’d have “common sense” gun safety legislation, right?
Let’s run through some of the polls:
- In a review of polling results, The News & Observer found:
- A Gallup poll showing that 61% of Americans support stricter gun laws
- A Quinnipiac University poll that showed 94% of Americans supported improved background checks on gun purchasers and 77% supported licensure of gun owners.
- Multiple polls that found support for background checks ranged from 84 to 94%.
- A Harvard Political Review article found:
- A 2015 Public Policy Polling survey found that 83% of gun owners and 72% of NRA members supported expanded background checks for all gun owners.
- A 2013 Quinnipiac University poll that suggested 48% of Americans feared that background checks of all gun owners could lead to gun confiscation. So, there’s that.
After the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 first graders, we all thought that we would pass some kind of gun safety legislation. Rachel Maddow reported that in 2013 Senator Joe Manchin (D – WV) stymied a more comprehensive background check bill assuring his colleagues that he could pass a slimmed down version of the bill by working with Senator Pat Toomey (R – Penn). The filibuster was sustained with only 54 votes for ending it.
That exact same senator, Joe Manchin, says that he opposes the current expanded background check bill but is interested in reprising his 2013 bill. Hunh. We’ll see.
With so much support, and so little legislative action, something just doesn’t add up, does it? It makes it doubly important that you call your senator to express your support.
- Sponsor:Rep. Mike Thomas (D – CA, 5)
- Congress: 117th Congress 2021 – 2022
- Passed the House 227 – 203 with eight Repube votes
- 11 March 2021, received by the Senate
- Summary: Since 1993, the US has required all sales by licensed gun dealers to go through a federal background check utilizing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Private sales including some sales on the internet or at gun shows have been excluded. This bill would require background checks for almost all gun transfers, including those between private parties, i.e. family members or friends. It also requires a licensed firearms dealer to hold all firearms until the background check has been completed when the transfer is between private parties. There are exceptions for self-defense or transfers at gun ranges.
- Sponsor: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D – SC, 6)
- Congress: 117th Congress 2021 – 2022
- Passed the House 219 – 210 with eight Repube votes
- 11 March 2021, received by the Senate
- This bill corrects the Charleston loophole, which allowed the unqualified Charleston shooter to purchase a gun anyway. Under the current system if the background check doesn’t give an answer in three working days, the purchase can proceed as if it were approved. When the Charleston shooter bought his gun, his background check hadn’t been completed in three days allowing the sale to go through. He would’ve been denied due to drug possession.
- H.R. 1446 would allow for ten business days to complete the background check. If it is still incomplete, the purchaser could petition for a final determination of the dale. If a final determination is not completed in another ten days, then the transfer can proceed as if it had.
- Please note that nine states have longer background check requirements with Utah and Florida allowing background checks to proceed until complete without a time limit.
Call YOUR senators to express your support for these two bills even if it means modifying the filibuster. Following Indivisible’s lead, we’re tailoring our appeals to each of the five types of MoC’s. Search through for the types that best fit each of your two senators.
Calling or Writing
Use this script when calling or writing your Members of Congress. Adapt as needed.
Regardless of the type of MoC you have, they all should begin the same:
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [STATE and LOCALITY].
I’m calling today because we once again confront the aftermath of mass shootings using military grade weapons bought just before the attacks took place. If we treat gun violence as a public health concern and use the data-driven solutions like effective background checks, then we can limit the death toll when these shootings occur and reduce the number of shootings. Simply by supporting the two House bills, HR 8 which requires background checks for most gun transfers and HR 1446 which closes the Charleston loophole, we begin to diminish the number of these senseless shootings.
Find your type of senator from the list below and continue with that script.
The Member of Leadership
Our country is crying out in pain demanding action that will protect us from this level of violence. These two bills are widely supported by the public, Democrats, Republicans, and independents, gun owners and non owners, everyone. We cannot allow opponents of common sense gun legislation slow these bills down, water these bills down, or prevent their passage. If we must modify the filibuster, then we must to protect the American people from mass shootings.
The Moderate Democrat
As we saw in both the Atlanta and Boulder mass shootings, gun violence continues to decimate our public spaces. These two House bills are widely supported by the public. We must appeal across the aisle for support from the Republicans in the Senate like we saw in the House, but we must also be prepared to go it alone even if it means requiring talking filibusters.
The progressive Democrat
I know you support both of these bills. Please fight for them and prevent any attempt by the Republican Party to block their passage. We need you to be a vocal supporter of these bills if we are to protect our public spaces from mass shooting incidents. We need you to support modifying the filibuster if we have to pass these bills without Republican support.
The conservative Democrat
The American people are desperate for relief from these senseless shootings. We must take advantage of the opportunity to balance our Second Amendment rights with our rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We deserve equal protection under the law across America. These bills do not impede any legal gun owner from purchasing or acquiring a gun, but allows the system time to work and covers most transfers. While we are likely to see Republican support for these bills, but if necessary, we should be prepared to modify the filibuster so that they can pass.
As we saw during the Atlanta and Boulder mass shootings, the threat to our public spaces only paused during the #COVID19 pandemic, but now that we are opening the country, they have returned. The American people support changes to the background checks that will help curtail these shootings. These bills balance our Second Amendment rights with our right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness by slowing the background process and expanding background checks to most gun transfers.
Thank you for your time and attention.
IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied.
The Starter Tweet
You may need to adjust the wording in the tweet because of your senator’s Twitter handle.
Help balance our 2nd A rights with our right to Life Liberty and Happiness by supporting the House background check bills. They slow the process and cover most transactions, but do not stop gun ownership. We need equal protection in every stateTweet
Tips for Calling
When you call your representative’s office, please remember the following:
- Only contact YOUR MoC! They only listen to their constituents and dismiss requests from non-constituents.Ask for the aide working on the policy-related issues.
- Be polite! No matter whose office you’re calling. No matter what their positions are. No matter how inflamed you are about the issue — and you should be very passionate — be polite.
- Remember that the people you are talking to are people! So, be nice.
- Call during business hours of the area code their office is in. Typically, that is 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
- Have a script or notes to follow so you don’t forget anything.
- Maybe call with friends. You know like a party.
I’ve heard back from readers that some MoC’s voice mail boxes are always full! It’s as if they don’t want to hear from their constituents. Kinda like those MoC’s who don’t hold town halls or other open forum meetings. Here are some other ways to contact your MoC:
In Addition to Calling
- in person visit, or what passes for in person during the time of #COVID19. Being in their office either in person or virtually and talking to the Congress person or a staff member is your best bet for getting your message heard.
- Send a postcard to their office. Nothing says I care like kicking it old school and using snail mail.
- Email their office. Lay out your concerns in a brief email and send it in. We all know how easy it is to email. Make sure you include the issue you are addressing in the subject line.
- Use the contact page on their website. This is the surest way of getting a message to them. Each MoC has an official government website and each has a contact page that comes with it automatically.
- Contact them using social media. It’s hard to break through all the noise on social media, but it can’t hurt to try given all the time we all spend using it. Be sure to tag your MoC’s when social mediaing about about a specific issue. Be clear and respectful, though, when addressing an issue that you want your MoC to act upon. Make sure you let them know you are a constituent.
- A form letter or petition. You see these on social media all the time. Text to this number and they’ll send a postcard. Sign the petition and they’ll deliver it. It makes it easier for you to do, and I guess it makes up for its lack of impact through its larger numbers? But, you wouldn’t be here reading this and thinking about calling your MoC if you were all about ease and comfort. There’s nothing easy, comforting, or comfortable about reading my syntactically garbled ranting snarky posts.
Coordination Makes an Impact
- Group Action. Visiting, calling, or mailing letters as a group has a bigger impact than just one person doing it, and it’s more fun. So, get your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, kidnap victims, whoever together and pass the phone around. Make it a day drinking game. Call in sick to work. It’s fun for the whole family!
- Join an Indivisible chapter. If you haven’t already joined an Indivisible chapter, consider doing it now. There are thousands of them dotted across the land. They sprouted and grew like invasive bamboo or mushrooms after 2017.
- Subscribe to Email Groups. I know those emails that claim to be from Elizabeth Warren, other political celebrities, or at least a real name are annoying, but they do help coordinate national action on issues. So, if a Congress person realizes that they just got a gazillion calls on issue X on the same day, then they know there’s a group that is pushing the issue and has voters behind it. See how that works for the anxious-to-be-re-elected Congress critter?
Film at 11:00
If you meet with your Congress person or staffer, film the interaction — this is where having a group comes in handy, one person talks, another one glares, and the third one films. So, if they are squirming or hemming and hawing or saying stupid stuff, you could go viral, and isn’t that everyone’s dream in this age of social media?
Use the Local Press
Again, if you’re going down as a large group, the press will cover it. If you’ve got a large phoning party, the press will cover it. And, you know who reads the local press? Congress folk, do, or at least their interns do. If you make the hometown newspaper or TV news, you’ve got that Congress person’s attention! So, go on, grab ’em by the press!
Useful links for getting the contact information for your MoC’s and anyone else in government local, state, or federal as well as tracking legislation, activism, and other information.
- Common Cause will give you the names, party affiliation, direct phone number, website link, and social media platforms of all of your federal, state, and local elected officials.
- USA.gov is the official guide to information and services of the US government. This page explains clearly how to contact everyone from the Ol’ Pussy Grabber to your representative to specific government agencies. Through it you can find the following information about your MoC’s:
- Their phone numbers: DC and state offices
- Their mailing addresses both in DC and their state offices
- Official website with their contact page including email, request a meeting, town hall schedules, and social media
- And, the committees they sit on
- Congress.gov is the official clearinghouse of information on all bills before Congress. You can find the sponsors, summaries, text, and status of every bill before Congress. It is a great tool.
- LegiScan uses the LegiScan API to search the LegiScan Data Service to provide a non-partisan federal and state legislation tracking service.
- 5 Calls: Sign-up for 5 Calls because they help you contact your member of Congress and keep you abreast of on going issues that are important to you! Now, that is a good deal.
- The Capital Hill Switch Board: (202) 224-3121.
- MassacreMitch and #MoscowMitch: His DC office, (202) 224-2541.
- Nancy Pelosi: Her DC office, (202) 225-4965; her California office, (415) 556-4862
- The WH Switchboard: (202) 456-1414 or the comments line at (202) 456-1111 during business hours
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