Your Voice Counts!
Please take action to help support the policy goals of Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and to reduce gun violence in the state. Here are a few easy ways that you can voice your support:
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper
- Write or call your state representative or senator and urge them to vote for common sense gun policies
- Join our email list to be part of a “rapid response” network. Enter your information on the right and click Submit to join the email list.
Letters to Editors
In writing a letter to the editor, you have a unique opportunity to discuss issues or frame the debate on an issue in your own words. For every comment a news outlet receives, they assume there are hundreds, if not thousands of readers, who feel the same way. A few quality letters can carry real weight and make a critical difference. Readers of newspaper editorials and opinion pieces tend to be decision makers sensitive to public opinion. Presenting information and ideas to them in a coherent written form helps reach important and influential audiences.
- Go to your local newspaper’s web site (see below for contact info for several Illinois papers) or call for information on how and where to submit a letter to the editor. Most letters can be emailed.
- Be sure to include your name, email and phone number with the letter to allow the editorial staff to contact you if they have questions.
- Do not exceed your newspaper’s word count. Most letters to the editor are about 200 words, but can vary. Edit the provided template as necessary.
- Without exceeding the word count, try to personalize the attached sample letter with a particular comment based upon your area of expertise or personal experience. Make sure that any additions to the provided template are specific, concise, and to the point.
Sample Letter for Requiring Universal Background Checks
Every year, thousands of guns are sold by unlicensed sellers without background checks on the purchasers. This “private sale loophole” results in guns getting into the hands of criminals who would otherwise not be able to buy firearms. Nationwide, 40 percent of gun transactions occur through unlicensed sellers and no-questions-asked private deals that require no background checks. Roughly 20 percent of gun trafficking investigations involve transfers by unlicensed sellers who are not required to conduct a background check.
Requiring background checks for all private handgun sales will reduce this illegal trafficking and allow for reporting and record-keeping similar to the required reporting of gun shops. Closing the “private sale loophole” for handgun sales would mean that all handgun buyers are treated equally and help ensure that persons buying handguns are legally eligible to do so, and it would also help law enforcement track the owners of weapons used in crimes.
Eight in 10 Illinois voters strongly support requiring private background checks before the sale of guns to private individuals. Sixty percent of all voters who are gun owners, NRA members, hunters, and FOID card holders also support this common sense requirement.
Contact Info for Major Illinois Newspapers
Mail: Voice of the People, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
Please limit letters to 300 words. Letters must be signed and include the writer’s town, and day and evening phone numbers. No letters will be published anonymously. Letters are subject to editing.
Letters policy: All letters to the editor must include the author’s name, address and telephone number for verification. Those without telephone numbers will not be used. Letters must be no longer than 250 words. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity. We will not publish anything that we consider libelous or that does not meet our requirements, and we do not guarantee when, where, or even if letters will appear in The Southern Illinoisan or its accompanying Web site(s), signed or otherwise.
Contacting your State Legislators
How to Find your State Legislators
To find out what district you’re in, who your elected officials are, and how you can contact them, go to:
Writing a letter or calling your representatives is an important way to tell them how the voters feel about certain issues. Constituent views are often factored into votes.
- Write or call the Springfield Office (State Capitol) between now and June 2012.
- Keep your comments brief. Try to limit your letter to one page and one issue, your call to one minute.
- Identify yourself and the issue. In the beginning of your letter or call, say who you are and what issue you are concerned about. If you are referring to a specific bill, identify it by the bill number. Reference your home address in your call or letter so that your representative knows you are from their district.
- Focus on your key points. Choose the three strongest points that support your position and state them clearly and succinctly.
Know Your Facts
Inaccurate or misleading information will hurt your credibility.
- Make it personal. Tell your representative why the issue matters to you and how it affects you and your community. Make a connection to the representative – mention if you voted for him/her or if you contributed to his/her campaign.
- Tell your representative how you want him/her to vote and ask for a response. Be sure to include your name and address on both your letter and envelope
A Note about Email
In general, the same guidelines apply to email as to written letters or calls.
- E-mail your representative or Senator only. Do not copy other representatives or send a mass e-mail.
- Send a brief message, with no special layouts or graphics. Do not include attachments.
- Include your full name and address so it is clear that you are a constituent, and ask for a response. You might want to follow up with a hard copy of your e-mail.
- Follow the same guidelines in writing an e-mail message that you would for a hand-written or typed letter.
Sample Letter to State Legislators
(Month) (Day), 2012
The Honorable (First) (Last)
(Room Number), State Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
RE: Support Common Sense Gun Laws
Dear (Representative/Senator) (Last),
As a constituent and (job title) with (employer/organization) in (city), Illinois, I am writing to urge you to support common sense gun laws to prevent gun violence in our state.
(Add a personal anecdote about the recent gun violence or how gun violence has affected you, your family, friends, or community.)
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act passed in 1993 requires background checks for all firearms purchased from federally licensed gun dealers and Illinois law also requires background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows. While these background checks are a vital tool in helping protect the public, because of loopholes in the law, criminals are still able to access guns.
The major source of crime guns is the illegal market. This market is fueled by rogue gun dealers who knowingly sell firearms to criminals, straw purchasers with clean backgrounds that buy guns on behalf of criminals, private gun sales that do not require background checks, and firearms stolen from law-abiding gun owners.
However, there are numerous common sense solutions that can put a dent in the illegal gun market without impeding upon legal gun owners. One solution is to close the private sale loophole in Illinois. Currently, state law does not require background checks for the private sale of guns, meaning that criminals and other prohibited purchasers are able to access firearms with no questions asked. Thousands of guns are sold in Illinois every year through private transactions without background checks on the purchasers.
Across Illinois, voters are supportive of closing this loophole. A recent statewide bipartisan poll found that 80 percent Illinois voters are in favor of background checks for private gun sales, including majority support from Republicans, gun owners, and even NRA members.
I hope that you will not underestimate the gravity of the issue at hand. We now have the opportunity to help prevent thousands more from being wounded or killed by guns in Illinois in years to come. Please support common sense gun polices.
Sample Phone Script for Calls to Legislators about Universal Background Checks
Hello, my name is (First, Last) and I am a constituent of Senator/Representative (Last).
I am calling today to express my concern about gun violence in Illinois and to urge Senator/Representative (Last) to support a proposed new law which can prevent further gun violence and death.
This is a common sense measure that I believe will reduce criminals’ ability to purchase firearms on our streets.
End call with key messaging points:
Nationwide, 40% of gun transactions occur through unlicensed sellers and no-questions-asked private deals that require no background checks.
Roughly 20% of gun trafficking investigations involve transfers by unlicensed sellers who are not required to conduct a background check.
Eight in 10 Illinois voters strongly support requiring private background checks before the sale of guns to private individuals. 60% of all voters who are gun owners, NRA members, hunters, and FOID card holders also support this common sense requirement.
Our lawmakers should join the majority of Illinois voters and support closing this loophole.
(Thank the staff person and leave your name, title and phone number.)