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Gun Club Political Activism in Election Years

With the deal signed in Colorado, gun owners really need to go ahead and start laying the groundwork for 2014.

For average gun owners who only have limited energy for following the political fight should still be focused on writing letters or making phone calls at the federal level and in their states (where relevant). But, if you’re reading this blog for fun and leisure, you’re not one of those people. Like it or not, you’re actually a form of a leader in our community because you’re more likely to be politically informed.

So, if you’re a member of a gun club or other gun-related community, let’s think up ways that you can transition any activism for pro-gun candidates to something with a measurable impact in an election year. Please look into any state laws that may be relevant in terms of fundraising and in-kind donations before following ideas presented here or in comments.

>> Contact the candidates you are backing and ask if they could set aside some “manual labor” type jobs for your club to offer during designated work times. The things that would most easily fit with typical gun range work times would be putting together yard signs, hammering together the frames for really large signs to be posted at intersections and larger plots of land, and even stuffing literature bags for precinct walks. These are activities that more gun guys who may not feel the most confident in walking door-to-door and being social or making phone calls to strangers can do. Even better, because of the need for target stands at many ranges, the tools and skills for building sign frames are already available.

>> Offer the club facility for use as a fundraising site for a local candidate. The campaign can handle everything, but they at least have use of the facility for free. The only real concern for the club in this case is to set up ground rules for use of the club (i.e. who is responsible for cleanup, any restrictions on catering, noise regulations, etc.).

>> Offer to actually host a fundraiser for a candidate or slate of candidates. Rather than simply allowing a campaign to use to property, the club would act as host of the fundraiser – arranging a caterer or finding club members who can cook up some hamburgers, inviting members and families, etc. While many people think of fundraisers as something big and expensive, they don’t have to be. Do a simple/cheap food theme and charge something like $25 or $30 per adult. If you do this pretty early in the campaign season, you’re even more likely to get the candidate out to the event where people can meet him/her and actually talk issues. And, there’s no reason to stop at just offering food. You could make it a shoot or match for added fun and social opportunities.

>> If the club is really willing to get involved, then work with a campaign to do secure pre-paid cell phones and set up a day to do some phone banking from the club. Bring in some pizza, sandwiches and sodas for club members, and give them work time credit. Make it a social event at the club. If the campaign is larger – like a Congressional or Senate campaign – then they may even have a list of call sheets that just target fellow sportsmen. It’s much, much easier to make a phone call to a stranger in support of a candidate when you know the talking points are about issues you know and the recipient is a fellow gun owner. If the local campaigns don’t have this level of targeting, NRA will have such systems in place to make calls to gun owners in favor of their endorsed candidates. Also, big secret to phone banking, you almost always just talk to answering machines, so it doesn’t require being that social.

>> See if the guys and gals who shoot matches with guns that are the targets of gun bans would be willing to get together one day for a couple of hours of door knocking and dropping off literature. Working in small groups is an easy way to knock out a neighborhood quickly, and it’s a bit of exercise and time in the sun.

>> If the club doesn’t have the facilities to host an event, use the club newsletter or calendar to promote outside candidate events like the low-level fundraisers, precinct walk days, and especially any kind of sportsmen’s outreach events. Unfortunately, you may not always have the months or weeks of heads up about these types of events required for traditional newsletter publication, but you can use a club website and/or an email list. Start thinking about these kinds of activities as typical additions to the club’s matches and other events. Just like competitions help preserve the Second Amendment by keeping people engaged with the gun culture, political work for pro-gun candidates also helps preserve the Second Amendment.

>> Invite your pro-gun lawmakers to club events where there will be quite a few people – picnics, major meetings, special events, etc. If you don’t have many club events to choose from, consider inviting them to join you at a table at a Friends of NRA dinner. Make sure to communicate with them what kind of event it is – whether or not it is one where they can easily get up and say a few words. If you do arrange an event like this, give the scheduler or other staffer some idea of what the audience will be like. Sure, it may be taking place at a gun club, but that doesn’t mean the only issue people there care about relate to guns. If there are common traits or circumstances that apply to the membership beyond a shared love of our rights, let the lawmaker know so they can be prepared to answer questions about those issues, too.

>> Start at the real grassroots of your local political structures. A fellow NRA volunteer suggested identifying precinct or other hyper-local party captains or leaders in your area and inviting the pro-Second Amendment leaders to a social shoot at the facility. They could get to know club leaders, club members, and be reminded of the potential power of the pro-gun vote. Another consideration might be to issue an invitation to all of these hyper-local leaders to an educational class or demonstration at the range.

6 Responses to “Gun Club Political Activism in Election Years”

  1. jdunmyer says:

    I don’t know about all gun clubs, but I belong to 2 that are explicitly “non-political” by virtue of their constitution and bylaws, AND their incorporation papers. The latter specifies that the Club is a non-profit and under section [whateveritisintheIRScode] are not allowed to do political activity.

    Nice idea, otherwise

    • Bitter says:

      Your “[whateveritisintheIRScode]” is quite variable and may or may not allow them to do various forms of political activity. It’s the various (c) designations that tend to guide whatever rules they must follow. Even if they are (c)3s (the most restricted since contributions are tax-deductible – which is highly unlikely since it would be tough to consider a shooting range a charity), then there are ideas in here that don’t directly involve the club. The outreach idea at the end? That’s totally educational and doesn’t have to involve any direct political campaigning. That’s why I suggest actually consulting the laws – that means knowing the laws and how various activities are organized.

      By-laws are a different story, but if a group of gun owners bans talk of politics within their club, then they are supremely short-sighted and they might as well be leading the way to irrelevancy and giving up guns. Political activity issues even beyond guns should be on the table for discussion and promotion since laws that impact environmental regulations, food prep (if they have a kitchen), and even events like small raffles and other games of chance are often up for debate in legislatures. These all effect clubs, and club members shouldn’t be hindered by by-laws if they want to have a candidate or lawmaker in to discuss the issues just because it may fall during campaign seasons. What if a club member is running for office? If they show up at a meeting and request to speak because they are running for office, will the club now toss that member for a by-laws violation since he/she announced their candidacy in a meeting and thereby used the club to advance their campaign? Seriously, your description sounds like some fundamentally flawed by-laws that need to be updated.

    • Jacob says:

      Trying to hide behind their tax status is just an excuse some clubs make for doing nothing. Non-profits can donate up to $5000 per year in direct campaign contributions. If they don’t want to do that they can simply host a fundraiser for a candidate and anyone who attends writes out their check payable directly to the candidates committee instead of to the club.

  2. Andy B. says:

    One tip: If you are going to work for a candidate, make it clear to him or her you will be as prepared to work against them in the next election when they double-cross you. Remember that demonstrating your power — if you have any — in an election is your goal, but, you have to scare the people you support as badly as those you oppose.

    At our club a few years ago, we had a candidate pitching sweet woo to us, I believe at the club president’s invitation, who meanwhile was telling the League of Women Voters that he wanted to ban almost every type of firearm. Just because they’ve learned the rap for an election year, and you want to beat up an incumbent or two, is not enough reason to actually trust any of them.

    • Alpheus says:

      You are so cynical. Can’t we just blindly trust every once in a while? It’s as of you were burned a time or the over the years of your involvement!

      (I appreciate your reminders to trust our politicians only about half as far as we could throw them, if that. We need eternal vigilance!)

  3. Andy B. says:

    “Can’t we just blindly trust every once in a while?”

    I’ve tried it. It never works. At least, it never works statistically often enough to serve as any sort of useful tactic. “Trusting” is like laying out a plan to live off playing the daily lottery the rest of your life.

    People who enter politics live off trust the same way vampires live off blood.

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