The tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida has shocked and mobilized the country. Students are leading the way and saying #Enough, and those of us who are committed to civic engagement are heartened by their response and eager to do our part to support them.
The LWVMA Board and staff share this urgency, and encourage each of us to find a way to take action on the issue at this critical juncture. As League members, we can be proud of the work that we’ve done in Massachusetts on this issue, but now is the time to let young voices know that we’re with them and willing to continue to do our part. Each of you can make a difference.
The League has a strong position on gun control, including supporting a ban on assault weapons. You can read the entire Massachusetts position in Where We Stand, page 47, and the LWVUS position here. Local Leagues and League members can organize actions, contact legislators, write letters to the editor, and generally take action in favor of stronger gun controls based on these positions. Leagues should refrain from targeting specific legislators to avoid appearing to endorse or oppose candidates, but are free to act in support of gun law reforms.
Here are some specific things you can do today and in the coming weeks:
- Educate yourself and community members about the laws that Massachusetts has already enacted. Massachusetts has already enacted laws that require a permit to purchase, require an owner license, require a carry permit for handguns, prohibit assault weapons, restrict magazine capacity, and require background checks for private sales. Additional resources for understanding the current laws can be found here. Marblehead League members put together a resource guide to educate themselves about the issue, and they’ve shared it with the rest of us. It was completed in December, so there is more news and links that could be added, but it’s a great place for other Leagues to begin. LWVMA is a member of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and there are resources on the coalition’s website.
- Offer to register students to vote during one of the school walkouts on March 14 at 10 a.m. (#NationalSchoolWalkout). You can find out if schools in your area are participating here. Leagues that are interested in offering voter registration should contact the students organizing and the school administration first; in most instances, this walkout will be a very brief 17-minute demonstration, so the time may not work for registration on this particular day.Perhaps you can offer another opportunity to register students, leveraging their engagement around this issue. The LWVMA office has postcards on how to register to vote online and on pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, which you can make available to schools. If you would like to request postcards for the March 14event, please contact Brynne Gorman by Monday, March 5.
- Participate in one of the March for Our Lives rallies being planned nationwide on Saturday, March 24. In Massachusetts there are already marches planned for Boston, Worcester, Chelmsford and Northampton, and more may be in the planning stages. LWVMA is planning to offer voter registration at the rally in Boston, and we urge other Leagues around the state to do the same in their towns. As the Florida students keep pointing out, if legislators won’t pass stronger gun laws, “vote them out.” We can help make sure every proponent of stronger gun laws is registered to vote. We can also participate with signs and a strong presence. If you’d like to help with the Boston event, please contact LWVMA Voter Service Co-Chair Judy Zaunbrecher. If you’re planning action in your community, let us know and we will share that with other members. We will have more information on the March 24 rallies coming soon.
- Urge your U.S. Senators to oppose the Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, HR38. That bill has already passed the U.S. House. Even though Senator Warren and Senator Markey oppose this bill, they need to hear from constituents. This bill would allow someone granted a concealed carry permit in any state to carry concealed guns in any other state, regardless of that state’s laws. See the LWVUS letter for talking points.
- Join LWVMA’s Legislative Action Committee (LAC) as a volunteer specialist on gun control legislation. This is currently an open position on the LAC that we are eager to fill. If you are inspired to take a more active role in working with current and future Massachusetts legislation on this issue, please contact Nancy Brumback, LAC chair.
- Contact your state legislators and urge passage of a current bill before the legislature, the Extreme Risk Protective Order bill, H.3081, which establishes a civil procedure for removing guns from people who pose a significant danger of causing physical harm to themselves or others. Since LWVMA does not have a gun issues specialist, we have not taken a position on this bill. But you can contact your legislators as an individual and urge passage!
- Review the LWVMA Citizen Lobbyist Handbook for pointers on legislative advocacy and offer to share this publication with students and other community members; you can also offer to meet with students to review the materials and answer questions.
- Include questions on gun control in candidate forums and voter guides as it is appropriate. This is another way to keep this issue in front of voters.
The entire Board and staff encourage you to find a way to get involved with this issue and to add our voices to the building momentum. If your League is planning action around these items, please share any calendar updates with Brynne Gorman so we can add them to the LWVMA calendar, and share your successes with all our members.
We are so glad to be partnering with you and our communities.
Mary Ann Ashton, President
Meryl Kessler, Executive Director