You do not need to travel to D.C. to meet with your lawmaker. There are reasons that make a trip to D.C. worth it. But just to meet your lawmaker is not one of them. For lawmaker meetings, Hometown Advocacy works.
There are a couple of big reasons why it’s better and more impactful to make meetings with your lawmakers in your home state:
Our government was made to be accessible at a local level. That’s why lawmakers live in the communities they represent. We should be engaging with them at a local level
You are more likely to get a face to face meeting with your lawmaker. When lawmakers are in D.C. they are busy. They have committees and votes and other obligations which is why most D.C. meetings are with staff and not directly with lawmakers. Even organizations who have paid lobbyists cannot guarantee meetings with lawmakers in D.C.
When your lawmaker is out of session in D.C. they’re back in the district they represent and most spend that time locally meeting with constituents and attending local events. Ask schedulers on the Hill: it’s easier to get a meeting with your lawmaker when they’re not in D.C.
Hometown advocacy also means you can bring more people to a meeting. The bigger the crowd the louder the message. Traveling to D.C. is expensive. It requires time off of work. Multiple reservations. Childcare. A hometown meeting at the local office is far more accessible to more of your friends and neighbors. And you should bring all of them.
Hometown meetings also allow for better representation of your community as a whole. Often the people who need the most representation cannot travel. Hometown meetings allow lawmakers to face a wider group of constituents where more communities can be represented.
A lawmaker won’t avoid a group of constituents asking for a meeting. They need your vote. Whether that means keeping your vote or earning it, they want to meet you and hear your concerns. So request a meeting and tell them your vote depends on their support of the federal assault weapon ban.
There are times when traveling to D.C. makes sense. Here are some:
In-person events like sit-ins, rallies and marches. I recently spent 6 days sitting-in to demand a ban on assault weapons. It was an amazing experience and being in D.C. was important so we could be seen by lawmakers. Dozens of senators and congresspeople came by to talk with us and sign the pledge to support a vote for the federal assault weapon ban. However, we took only three meetings for the entire week.
Rallies and marches are great for building momentum around a cause. It’s a great place to get motivated and to meet other advocates who are fighting with you. Unfortunately, the folks on the other side of the aisle aren’t moved by rallies or marches. But big crowds like the Million Mom March and March For Our Lives events make a lot of noise in the media and can bring new people to the fight so the more the merrier.
Survivor-led lobbying is another important reason to travel to D.C. This is what I do most when I’m in D.C. I meet with lawmakers from across the country to share the impact a mass shooting carried out with an assault weapon has had on my family and my community. Sometimes I lobby alone and sometimes with other survivors. Survivor-led lobbying is a way to put a face to a cause so lawmakers can see the toll that these weapons of war have on real people.
There are folks in the GVP space who believe we shouldn’t make extraordinary efforts like traveling to DC to engage our lawmakers because the work is on them to keep or earn our votes. Others believe that lobbying trips to DC create an appearance of elitism when only those who can afford the trips are being represented while those who cannot afford to travel are the people who need the most representation.
If you’re not attending a in-person event or sharing a personal impact story, the best way to make the biggest impact is by meeting with your lawmaker in their local office in your home state. Why? Because constituent voices matter most of all.
And if you do travel to DC with a group to lobby your lawmaker, make sure they’re paying your expenses. You are getting them in the door and helping their organization. They should be covering your expenses.
You should request a meeting with all of your lawmakers. That’s your two senators and your US representative.
Common question: what if my lawmaker already supports the ban?
Even if your lawmakers supports the ban, you should still request a hometown meeting and this is why: Co-sponsors can still help move the assault weapon ban bill by personally calling on leadership to call the bill up for a vote. This should be your number one ask for your lawmaker if they support the federal assault weapon ban. We need every co-sponsor to lean on leadership to give the bill a vote.
We also need every single gun safety lawmaker to keep their seat. If your lawmaker supports the ban, request a meeting and ask them to lean on leadership to give the assault weapon ban a vote and then ask them to talk to your neighbors and friends about gun safety legislation and why they support it. Giving them face time with constituents to secure votes will help them get re-elected.
Arrange a town-hall in your community with a focus on gun safety and ask your lawmaker to join.
You can host a neighborhood fundraiser for their re-election campaign.
And instead of spending $500 to travel to D.C., you can donate some of that money to your gun safety lawmaker’s re-election fund.