When I woke up today and heard about the tragedy in Las Vegas, I did my morning routine as usual, but couldn't shake an awful sense of sadness and had a hard time getting into work mode when it came time to sit down in my studio.
I felt like I needed to do something, even if it was small, to try to help. I decided to do some research on how to write to my senators, and I thought it might be helpful for you to see what I found. I'm no expert on this, but I'm distilling what I read in hopes that it will be helpful to someone out there.
Finding your senators/representative
As an individual American citizen living in one of the 50 states, you are represented in Congress by two state Senators and one House Representative, determined by your Congressional District. The exceptions to this are residents of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who don't have voting representatives in Congress.
You can look up your two senators here. Addresses are also listed on this page. You can look up your house representative using your zip code here. When you click on their name, scroll down and you'll see an address.
What to Write
Once you have the addresses, you can write about any issue that's important to you, but my primary focus today is gun safety laws. I found it really interesting to use the sites below to look at voting history. This is helpful in that you can look up your legislators' votes in the past, and know when you are writing to them if you are asking them to go against their voting history or supporting it. I don't think this is absolutely necessary to know, but can be helpful if you are writing in depth on a topic, particularly if you are asking them to vote outside of their past choices. Here's the Senate Voting History, and the House of Representatives Voting History.
You can be as thorough or succinct as you like, but I did read that a lot of offices sort mail by pro/con and either count the letters or even weigh them to determine their constituents' collective point of view without spending too much time reading them, so I'm guessing quantity works harder than quality in this case. With that in mind, I kept mine super simple.
In trying to figure out what to write, I took advice from the "Call your Senator" page of everytown.org. They tell you what you should say if you were calling your Senator (which you could also do, though I read actual letters are given more weight than calls or emails). I just took what they suggested there and put it on a postcard to both of my senators.
This is the exact text I wrote:
Dear Senator Durbin,
My name is Allison Hasson and I'm a constituent in Chicago. Please vote NO on Senate Bill 446. I am deeply concerned about the desperate need for stronger gun laws in our country.
Bill No. 446
There is currently a bill coming up for vote in the Senate (Bill No. 446) that would force all 50 states to allow people with no safety training to carry concealed, loaded weapons in public. This seems like a horrible idea, so it made sense to me to ask my senators to vote "no" on this. I'd encourage you to do the same. If Senate offices are weighing or counting our letters to see where people stand, let's all send something that requests a solid "no" for this bill.
Does this all make sense? Please send me an email if you have any questions or suggestions on this issue. No matter where you stand on gun control or any issue, it's such an important responsibility of ours to communicate with our legislators and make our voices heard. No one wants any more mass shootings in this country. We are not helpless, we are capable of change and we can do something about this horrific pattern.
Edited 10/6/17: You can download free printable Dear Senator / Dear Representative Cards that I created with Oh So Beautiful Paper right here!
Sending love to you all on this dark day,