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by Weldon Clark

Third in a series. Next is Running Campaigns and Unregistering Your Gun.

BASIC PRINCIPLE - Gun laws do not prevent criminals from getting firearms. Criminals do not obey laws. In fact, the disarming of honest citizens makes crime worse. Therefore, additional firearm restrictions are bad and fewer restrictions are good. Anti-gun media people and politicians do not wish to control your firearms. They wish to destroy your firearms.

PURPOSE - Your purpose is to protect the individual's right to keep and bear arms. The best way to defend your own rights is to defend the rights of others. This means achieving positive legislative results. Your job as an activist is to:
(A) stop bad legislation from passing and
(B) get good legislation passed. The job is not to make a particular person or politician happy.

NECESSARY PREREQUISITES - You must be willing to spend your own time, energy and money to do this work. First, go to your local library and copy all of the state and federal firearm laws and place then in a notebook with separators and labels. Read and understand all of these laws. Next be a member of a firearms organization in your state - preferably one that has a range and a large, stable, active membership. Make sure you can mail to this membership. Get to be the organization’s legislative officer. Get from your state capital a roster of the state legislators with their HOME and office addresses and phone numbers. Print up this roster in a handy folded to fit shirt pocket form. Pass these out at gun clubs and include in all mailing to members at least once per year. Politicians respond primarily to THOSE IN THEIR DISTRICTS who can vote for or against them. Get a copy of your state's rules for both the senate and house. Know these rules.

ACTIVATING FIREARMS OWNERS - Only when it is absolutely necessary must you try to get a large number of your fellow gun owners to contact their representatives by the use of an EXPENSIVE mailing. However, when it is necessary, the mailing should contain your cover letter describing the position you believe they should take with their legislators and a roster of the legislators to be contacted. Your letter must be true, strong and motivational. Anger and fear should be in your letter to your firearm owner friends. You must get them to act. They will act but you cannot get them to do this very often.

PRINCIPLE OF LEGISLATIVE DIRECTION - Bad legislation is that legislation that restricts firearm owners further in a particular jurisdiction. Good legislation is that legislation that restricts firearm owners less in that particular jurisdiction. Legislation that is good in a very restrictive state is bad is a far less restrictive state. People who have not lived in a very restrictive state do not understand this.

The legislative rules are as follows:

1. Stopping bad legislation is the FIRST PRIORITY.
A. Use the numerical strength where it exists in either house or either committee.
B. Get amendments attached to make the bill less likely to pass.

If nothing else works, get a lot of amendments adopted to soften the legislation. Firearm owners who have never lived in a very restrictive state do not understand this. An example is a bill to follow private sales in a state I formerly resided. Friends in the state Senate amended this bad bill that had passed the house. This meant that the bill had to go back to the house and pass with the amendments. In the mean time I personally called 180 members of my gun club and the bill failed in the house by 2 votes out of a 141-member house.

A word of caution here. You do not want to amend the bill to make it acceptable to more of the members of the general assembly. You wish to make the bill unacceptable to anti-gun legislators. The object is to kill the bill.

2. Passing good legislation is the SECOND PRIORITY; however when no attack is present pursue good legislation.
A. Write the bill so that it will be perceived as practical legislation. Read the present law and get a lawyer friend to help. Run it by others. A dream bill that goes nowhere wastes resources and your creditability. THE PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD.
B. Use the numerical strength where it exists in either house or committee.
C. Get amendments attached to make the bill more likely to pass.
D. If the politicians insist on garbaging up the bill, stop or soften any of these amendments you can. However get the bill passed.
E. PRINCIPLE OF GRADUALISM - Use the gradualism approach. Year after year pass good bills. People who have never lived in a very restrictive state do not understand this. A lot of members think NRA is responsible for the final wording of a bill. This is not necessarily true. Mistakes can be made by local activists who are not politically savvy or more likely by NRA-ILA's liaisons. YOUR FRIENDS CAN DO TO YOU WHAT YOUR ENEMIES CANNOT. However opposition politicians do the most damage.
F.DO NO HARM – You have no moral right to appease the anti-gun politicians and media. Do not preemptively surrender, or decide which aspect of our Second Amendment right should be gutted in trade for advancing or not gutting some other aspect. Do not support "tolerable" unconstitutional gun controls to appear reasonable, or in return for a sucker promise to back off on other gun controls.

Unfortunately over the years NRA has done this at times. In 1988 they made a compromise to get the Maryland roster board that now decides what handguns can be sold in Maryland. The NRA State Liaison called me late at night to tell me AFTER the fact. I wrote and help bring to a vote the Maryland referendum to try to stop the law from going into effect. This did fail because of the police raid on the headquarters of the Maryland Committee Against the Gun Ban the night before the election. The TV stations left the voters with the impression the pro-gun side was doing something illegal. (The anti-gun politicians used the tactics of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s.)

COMMUNICATING WITH POLITICIANS - Do not try to communicate with the politicians who are the enemies of firearm ownership. You do not want to waste your time and damage our cause by educating the enemy. Do all your communication with the politicians in that political body who are in favor of firearm ownership. Testify at each hearing where an anti-gun bill is being considered. Arrive early and sign up before anyone else. Stay late and talk to the politicians who are on your side in the committee. A friend on the committee can do our cause a world of good.

GOOD ARGUMENTS - Your idea of a good argument and what works are different. The ideas that work on anti-gun bills are pointing out those things in the bill that can work an injustice on the average citizen. Your committee testimony should be written for reference. But only say what others have not said ahead of you. Repetition will not work with committee members.

FOLLOW THE BILL - It is up to you to know the legislative schedule and obtain timely copies of all bills affecting firearm owners. You must think ahead and have the information beforehand. Anti-gun bills are not dead until the legislative session ends. Pro-gun bills are not completed until signed by the Governor.

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It is difficult to maintain the illusion that we are interpreting a Constitution, rather than inventing one. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, in his minority dissenting opinion in Nebraska vs. Carhart

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