How to write an impactful letter against gun violence to your elected officials

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Sample letter

Dear [Name of Elected Official],

I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing my phone buzz with notifications. I’m tired of hearing people’s thoughts and prayers. I’m tired of hearing my generation getting slaughtered for trying to get an education. 

In Australia, the gunman killed 35 people, and within that same week, their government put out stricter gun violence prevention laws. In New Zealand, the attack on the mosque shook the world, the same policies were passed to prevent gun violence. The list goes on and on. In the United States, we’re barely halfway through 2022, and there have already been 213 mass shootings and there has been no action. 

The majority of Americans are like me and are tired of seeing these senseless tragedies. 83% of us want Universal Background Checks on gun purchases and 63% support a ban on assault rifles. We need our government to stand with us and govern for the people. 

My generation is suffering, dying, and screaming for help, and no one is even batting an eye. I urge you to be someone who cares for us and supports gun violence legislation.

Sincerely,

[Your name, City, and State (if appropriate)]

 

Find your elected officials

To find your federal and state representatives, visit My Reps

 

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Tips to customize your letter

First paragraph: Hook, history, and facts
Your hook is a way to get the person reading your letter interested. Why should your reader care? How is this affecting their life? Adding relevant history and facts to your hook will make a stronger connection for your reader.

Example of first paragraph with hook:
If you’ve been paying attention in the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, TX, you’ve heard several times that the US is uniquely terrible at protecting children from gun violence. In plain words, children are more likely to die from gun violence in the US than in any other high-income country. One of the reasons is that many members of Congress are afraid of the NRA because of their ability to mobilize hostile money and votes. Are you afraid of the NRA and other powerful gun lobbies? You certainly vote like you are.

Get facts about gun violence:
Gun Violence Archive
Pew Research Center
BBC: America’s gun culture – in seven charts

Second paragraph: Personal connection & statistics
It’s powerful to share your personal experience with gun violence, your feelings about the epidemic of gun violence, or why you care. Adding statistics to your feelings will help to show how your feelings are grounded in reality.

Example of personalized second paragraph:

Guns are the leading cause of death in young people in the US

Like many parents in this country I worry when I send my kids to school–there have been 27 school shootings in the US in 2022.
I worry about increasing gun violence in the US–every day 22 children/teens are shot in the US.
I worry about the proliferation of guns in our country–the US ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents far surpasses that of other countries around the world.
These statistics are appalling, and I will continue to work to make sure that they are not normalized in the US. These numbers are not okay. This level of death and violence is not acceptable.

Places to find statistics about gun violence:
BBC: America’s gun culture – in seven charts
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Brady: Key Statistics

Credit: BBC

Conclusion: Actionable items–1 hard ask and 1 soft ask
It’s one thing to ask an elected official to “do something,” and it’s another thing entirely to be specific about what you’d like them to do. It’s more powerful to ask for specific actions–vote for, sign on to proposed legislation, create legislation, have a town hall, join a protest, or make a clear statement about their position. 

A “hard ask” is requesting that the person do a specific thing or perform a specific task: vote yes, schedule a town hall. A “soft ask” may be couched in appreciation or thanks: “Thank you for attending the candlelight vigil, and I’d ask you to follow that up with a push for a vote on Bill 162.”

Example:
A poll conducted after the Uvalde shooting is clear:

  • 88% strongly/somewhat support requiring background checks on all gun sales (net approval: +80); 81%  support making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks (net approval: +70)
  • 84%  strongly/somewhat support preventing sales of all firearms to people reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider (net approval: +75)
  • 67% percent strongly/somewhat support banning assault-style weapons (net approval: +42)

I strongly urge you to cross the aisle, work together, and create and support the gun violence legislation that is supported by the vast majority of Americans. Right now, background checks and red flag laws can be passed in Congress immediately. Please support and vote yes on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, which have passed in the House and would tighten gun sales regulations by expanding background checks.

Examples of Hard Asks:
Support calling a vote and vote yes on S. 4263 (IS) – Federal Firearm Licensing Act
Schedule a town hall meeting in our district during the summer

Examples of Soft Asks:
Thank you for your conversation with me; I hope you will attend our protest this Saturday

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