For weeks, Guns Save Life has promoted the NRA Grassroots / Citizen Activist training event at SCHEELS in Springfield. Finally, the day came. This marked the first event of its kind in the Prairie State in the 25+ years I've participated in gun rights. And about 35 Illinois residents attended, coming from as far away as Chicago to attend.
The NRA-ILA NRA’s Regional Grassroots Field Coordinator David Conte hosted the meeting. The NRA-ILA Illinois liaison John Weber could not attend because of weather related issues (Hurricane Florence).
John Weber began the meeting on speakerphone with a legislative update from this session. If you've been reading GunNews and/or reading the GSL website, you are already up to date. The only real "new" thing he offered: Go ahead and call the governor's office and ask him to veto the Gun Dealer Licensing bill that will head to his desk once Democrats release it. The governor has pledged to veto it, but additional prodding from gun owners can't hurt.
From there, David Conte talked about helping out pro-gun candidates' campaigns. A good campaign can put you to work in one way or another. If you're not up for knocking on doors, you may still prove useful by stuffing envelopes, placing signs, making signs or any one of dozens of jobs. Volunteers making phone calls and knocking on doors are the "most valuable" positions – in part because they are the work few really like doing.
Both Weber and Conte noted how the anti-gun candidates have full offices, staffed to the gills with paid and unpaid workers. Meanwhile, a lot of pro-gun candidates rely more on volunteer staff and they have lots of empty chairs. Obviously, the good guys will welcome your help!
While it's difficult to get gun owners off the couch and active across America, but in Illinois lately, that uphill climb looks more like scaling a tall cliff. With concertina wire on top. Don't let that discourage you!
The NRA has a "Frontlines" campaign, where member volunteers help out at election times. Here's the full description from the website.
NRA-ILA FrontLines is comprised of NRA-ILA's most dedicated volunteers, who work vigorously at the local, state, and federal levels to defend our Second Amendment rights. FrontLines members work with NRA-ILA, and especially with their NRA-ILA Election Volunteer Coordinator (EVC), to advance ILA's legislative and political agendas. Your EVC is a local NRA member who has volunteered to act as the liaison between NRA members and gun owners and various pro-gun campaigns seeking volunteer support. Your EVC also works with local Second Amendment supporters to promote NRA-ILA's legislative agenda.
Conte pointed out Guns Save Life's Director Annette Chapman at the meeting and praised her as one of their finest Frontline volunteers. As part of this, the NRA's reps are signing up gun shops and businesses that would serve as "Activist Centers". NRA-ILA will drop-ship them materials to disseminate among their customers to help educate people and support the good guys in elections.
Well, someone long ago said that "just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics doesn't take an interest in you."
Want to participate in Frontlines? Or learn more? Text "Frontlines" to 313131.
Next up, John Weber talked about the "Citizen Lobbying" end of things.
In short, he discussed establishing relationships with elected officials over time. Unlike knocking on doors for candidates, legislators are more inclined to listen to constituents. Some even like to hear from the people in their districts.
Contact them – a lot. The more the better. So they know you and recognize you.
To help keep yourself organized, keep a log of your contacts along with notes of topics discussed.
In person visits stand head and shoulders above letters, phonecalls or emails.
Of course, be polite while you share your passion in a positive manner. Don't make threats or become surly, or profane.
If you do have a couple of minutes to whip off an email, make sure it's personal – not some pre-made mass mailing addressed to "Dear Legislator".
The anti-gun folks are organizing, especially since the election of Donald Trump. They're doing many of the same things we did decades ago. The good news is that they remain behind us – way behind us – in dedicated volunteers. The bad news is that they make up for it with Soros, Bloomberg and other rich oligarch's money.
Weber also discussed the importance of shaping the views of politicians early in their careers while they serve in local positions.
In the end, both men answered some very good questions from attendees.