First, to give credit where credit is due. I'd like to thank Michigan Students for Concealed Carry for letting us heavily borrow from their guide.
One of the most effective ways you can support Open Carry is by “lobbying” your elected State Representatives or Senators to tell them that you support us. The louder our voice gets, the more likely we are to accomplish our mission. We’ve compiled some tips that we’ve found effective – many of them directly from Reps and Senators themselves – that will turn you into an effective citizen. (Find your Representative and find your Senator.) In no particular order:
- Get to know your Reps: In Michigan, a simple trip to Lansing can be enormously effective. Even as a private citizen, the Reps and Senators that represent your district will be more than happy to meet with you. Many Reps will even leave the floor while the House is in session to speak to you if you request. Usually, a meeting with their office staff to express your support for Open Carry is sufficient. Remember, the staffers have the ear of the Reps and Senators. Making an appointment can be helpful, but there will always be someone around to drop by and speak to. Friend your Rep or Senator on Facebook too. They’re there. Find your Rep here, and discover your Senator here.
- Write or Call: This is the big one. Reps and Senators do read every email that lands in their inbox, and they do pay attention to the number of emails and calls that they get regarding a specific issue. Keep emails short and sweet. Explain that you support open carry of a holstered handgun, tell them where (city, township) you live, and give one specific reason why you support open carry – “I believe that law-abiding citizens are the fastest, safest solution to life threatening criminal encounters that can’t be stopped by even the most vigilant community police forces.” Finally, do us a favor, and mention your support or association for Michigan Open Carry, Inc. You want to come across as an educated voter who will be keeping track of how your Rep/Senator votes on a Firearm Rights bill.
- Support your supporters: If you know a firearm rights bill is going to be heard in committee soon (which you will, by paying attention to our Facebook page or signing up for our Legislative Action Alert Email list), write Reps or Senators on the committee and/or the bill’s sponsor and offer to either attend the committee to give supporting testimony, or give written testimony in support of the bill. If you know someone in a unique position – say, a city council member or mayor – that our causes, ask them if they’d be willing to submit written testimony. Written testimony is essentially the same as a supporting email, but can be a little more elaborate – again, especially if the person in question is in a unique position. It can be read at committee meetings in support of the bill, but will often be presented as a show of how many voters support the bill, but were unable to be present at the committee meeting.
- Support Firearm Rights bills in the Committee process: Many bills “die in committee.” Say a bill that we support is introduced by a friendly Senator (“Sponsor”). The bill will first be referred to a committee; for example, the Senate Judicial Committee. From there, the committee chair must decide to have a hearing on the bill (see below). The must then decide to vote on the bill. Then, the majority of the committee must vote to move the bill as it is written to the Senate for full discussion and, hopefully, passage. All of these steps require your support. You should write the committee chair and Sponsor to express your support for the bill, and you should write the committee members to express your support for the bill. It is not unusual for bills to languish in committee for months before they’re heard. Our site will provide updates on any relevant bills, so stay tuned.
- Attend Committee meetings: As mentioned above, each bill has to undergo a hearing in committee before it can be advanced to the House or Senate. The committee hearing is a very important step in the process. When you attend a committee hearing, you should fill out a (usually yellow) “speaker card,” (often located near the door with other material that's handed out) where you can choose to either record your support and/or speak to the committee in support of a firearm rights bill. Very few things are more effective than hearing a committee clerk list off 60 supporters of a particular bill. As mentioned above, if you’re unable to attend the committee hearing, you should still offer written testimony to the bills’ Sponsor in advance of the hearing.
- Enlist your friends: Numbers count. If you can write your Rep or Senator once, that’s great. If you, your family, a few friends, and some associates at work can write all of their elected Reps and Senators as well, that’s outstanding. You can really multiply our message by posting status messages on Facebook, "Sharing" our updates on your Facebook page, or writing letters to the editor in your hometown paper.
- Stay current: Michigan Open Carry, Inc. will always post current news regarding bills on our Forum, to our Legislative Action Alert Email list, and on our Facebook page. When our bills hit a critical time – when committee hearings are imminent or bill sponsors indicate they need to see increased support – we’ll post plenty of messages on these outlets. Keep in touch, and you’ll be doing your part to support the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.