Turning Commercial Shops & Ranges into Grassroots Headquarters
Many gun owners have talked about how packed their local gun stores and commercial ranges have been since early December. However, as much as we might like to see that kind of activity for gun sales, many of those customers are not contacting their lawmakers. Some have the attitude that if they can get their guns, ammo, and magazines, then their “work” is done and they will let other people worry about politics.
Unfortunately, politicians don’t know about how many people stopped by to pick up a new shotgun last month, nor are they likely to hear about how shooting classes for beginners are filling up all over the state. It’s our job as activists to make sure that these gun buyers and new shooters learn about how to protect our fundamental rights, too.
Here are specific and actionable ideas that gun stores and commercial ranges can implement in order to make sure that nearly every person who comes in to buy an AR also contacts their Congressional leaders. If you’re a regular customer at a store or shooter at a commercial range, send this list to the staff or offer to help them implement any of these ideas some weekend.
- Nearly every person who comes in the store or range will, at some point, provide the store with an address. Look that address up and immediately hand that person a business card or sheet of paper with contact information for their two Senators and their Congressman. The customer base likely only comes from a handful of Congressional districts, so make the effort to get that local.
- If the shop has room, set up a table with paper, pens, and envelopes – pre-addressed to really want to make it easy. If there’s a wait, strongly encourage people to sit down and write 3-4 letters – one to their Congressman, their Senators, and (if relevant for state concerns) the Governor. Put out sample language and talking points taped to the table to get them started. Put up a collection box for the completed letters, and eat the cost of a stamp to mail them all. This way you know those letters make it to the lawmakers. If you don’t want to worry about stamps and envelopes, put the store fax machine to use and fax them in throughout the day. Just make sure people include their mailing address in the letters if they are faxed.
- Offer a discount or freebie of something to people who prove their participation in the issue. Maybe they complete the above letters and get a coupon for $5 off of their next purchase, or even get a gift card to Starbucks if you’re concerned about the process of issuing coupons. Perhaps they get a free range session on their next visit, or can upgrade to a more expensive-to-rent gun. You could also tell people that if they have already sent letters, they can bring in the response from their lawmakers to show and get the discount or coupon.
- If you already have some kind of points/frequent renter club, give extra points to those who participate in the letter-writing campaign. If you do this, don’t make the reward very small. Make it worth their while. Make the statement that you value their participation in the defense of our rights at a big dollar amount. It could be the same as spending $25 in range fees or something equally big. Don’t give them a credit that’s equal to like 50 cents of spending. That shows that you don’t value participation at all. (If you don’t currently have any kind of points/rewards club, the perceived dollar value of anything else you give them doesn’t matter quite as much since it’s a new perk, not one comparable to other perks.)
- Set up a pay-as-you-go cell phone (choose the option to pay per day used, not by minute) and put it at the counter with the phone number to all area lawmakers – federal and state – with a couple of sample scripts. Tell customers to give the offices a call right there if they are waiting for a range position or on a background check confirmation.
- Post a petition-type letter that opens with something “we, the undersigned members of the InsertCityorRegionNameHere lawful gun owning community,” and make a letter that’s pretty focused on the gun issue. Then, leave lots of spaces and pages for people to sign their names and include at least their cities or zip codes. Collect signatures until you fill a sheet (or more sheets) and then mail it in to all of the regional lawmakers.
The point in these suggestions is that you need to translate to your customers that they will lose their rights if they don’t stand up, and that you VALUE their participation in defending gun rights.