Accomplishments of the Finance Committee
The finance committee ended up being comprised of one person, and that individual set up a bank account and received funds from individual members, GoFundMe donations that came in through the GoFundMe page, and from corporate donations. One thing that was emphasized (falsely) by the opposition was that our group was funded by the NRA. While I am a proud member of the NRA, and many of our members are life members, in a smallish upscale suburban community the NRA is viewed very negatively. To be linked to them by these residents was not a good thing. So we had to put out some press about the fact that we received not one dime from the NRA; it all came from residents, other people, or organizations who supported us (such as local sportsmen’s clubs and out of town residents who heard about our group and the proposed legislation through media sources). The finance committee gave a weekly report of the status of funds and allowed the PR committee to make decisions about which type of advertising we could afford and would have the most impact.
Accomplishments of the Legal Committee
The legal committee had the responsibility of investigating the petitions to determine that they were legal and valid, to answer our questions regarding what the present state law required versus what was being proposed, what the Constitutional aspects of the proposed law would cost the town, and the likelihood of a legal challenge in the event the proposals passed.
Accomplishments of the Administration Committee
We couldn’t have done it without the coordinator. He set up the group, and with the assistance of GOAL, was able to determine the structure the group would need to succeed. He contacted other towns that had faced similar battles and used their experience to shape our strategies. He wrote many of the letters that appeared in local newspapers. He kept our meetings as focused as possible and set up the meetings and meeting room. He assisted and pushed whenever we needed a boot in the butt. He kept us on track.
Accomplishments of the Technology Committee
Technology is absolutely vital for success today. Very few people use the telephone anymore; email is the way to go. The technology committee kept us all linked together through constant contact and established an email list. He set up the Facebook page and GoFundMe pages that brought us the donations we needed to do our advertising campaign. He constantly updated our website to include inspiring messages and congratulate our members whenever something positive was accomplished. He gave us the pats on the back we all needed, as we struggled against what we thought were probably unattainable odds.
We Won!!!!! But that’s not all that can be said. For this blueprint to work for the next community, you have to know why we won.
We won because the advertising, lawn signs, interviews, articles, brochures, and greeting at town entrances all worked. It woke up the gun owners to the fact that their rights were being threatened. We won because we were wrong about the demographics of our town. It turned out that many of those who voted were not even gun owners. They voted “No” because they understood the costs to the town. They voted No, because they understood that my town has not had any gun violence in over 30 years. They voted No, because they recognized that the proposed laws were infringing on the Constitutional rights of citizens, and these days the Constitution is being trampled on every single day. They voted No, because the police department didn’t support the proposed legislation. They voted No, because the proposed laws could not legally be enforced without risk of further lawsuits. And they voted No, because they were tired of a few people trying to force their political opinions and wishes upon everyone else. We underestimated the residents of the town; we weren’t sure they would see what was right. I am very proud that the residents resoundingly voted the proposals down, by approximately 80% opposed.
Things I Would Change
- Do not ignore the non-gun owners. There are many more people out there than you think that are aware of the Constitutional infringements that are happening and the overreach of government, and they are as angry as you are. They are outwardly silent, but they are there. They can be awoken, and they just need to become informed. It’s your job to wake them up and inform them. The speeches by the people chosen to speak need to follow the 3 B’s. As our chosen speakers read their pre-written speeches, it became very clear they needed to follow the 3 B’s: Be Brief; Be Blunt; Be Done. Say what needs to be said in 30 seconds, if you can. Cut directly to the point you’re trying to make; don’t say unnecessary things or anything that has already been said. The voters will appreciate your brevity.
- Read your audience. One member of our organization warned us of the importance of reading the audience and changing our speeches accordingly. After the first vote, it was clear the voters were on our side. We could have had no speakers, and the vote would still have gone our way. The best thing to do would have been to tell the speakers they had no more than 30 seconds and then to stop. The other voters would have been happier and the meeting much shorter, if we had done this. The speakers also did not change their speeches after the lead petitioner changed the first warrant; they were not as effective, since they spoke on the proposed warrant and not on the corrected one.
- Try to have speakers who can speak without reading and are emotionally involved. One of the best speakers of the night was a police officer who had been present at the Newtown shooting scene. He refused to say at the town meeting he had been there (out of respect for the families and victims), but he effectively (and emotionally) explained what an assault rifle really was and who could own one versus what was being portrayed in the warrant. He stated that none of the warrants would stop a mentally ill person. He spoke from the heart, without notes, and he was absolutely riveting to watch and listen to. Look for speakers like this, if you can find them– people who demand respect because they know exactly what they’re talking about through experience and knowledge.
- Attack, do not just defend, and do it as soon as possible. At the beginning, we were playing catch up. The lead petitioner was everywhere– on the radio, on TV, and in newspapers. It took us a while to organize and then act. Be aggressive at the very beginning; saturate the media with your side. Get into the media immediately. Attack the proposals and point out the flaws and most of all the cost of enforcement. Cost is huge to a town that wants an outstanding school system, new town facilities, and other town services that eat up the town budget. Emphasize that the cost of enforcement and defending lawsuits will drain the town budget so that none of the things the town residents want can be funded.
- Timing is everything. Act as soon as you can, don’t debate the moves, establish a strategy immediately, and then act. We almost didn’t get our campaign together in time. We had only four weeks to establish a strategy and then act upon it. We wasted almost two weeks with next to nothing to show for it, and then our campaign took off at the end. Amazingly, that was perfect timing too. Saturation of your point of view immediately before the Town Meeting is essential. You want your point of view to be the last thing people remember as they go in to vote. Our opponent was very good at this. He got the last television interview; he got the last article in the local paper right before the vote. What he didn’t have was the type of public support we did or the organized group we did, and the ability to inundate the voters with information, brochures, and a smiling face eager to educate them at the last possible moment at the door of the town meeting.
We were successful, this time. The opposition has promised to continue their campaign, and we have no doubt they will. We are remaining an organized group and will keep our bank account open. We will be ready as soon as any further proposals are brought forth and are focusing our efforts on the state level, supporting a proposed bill that would put a stop to local gun control. I found this battle to be incredibly stressful and time consuming. I also found this fight to be incredibly rewarding, and I met some fantastic people that I hope I know for the rest of my life. I am proud of my fellow residents for their intelligence and willingness to vote their hearts, and I am very proud of all the members and contributors who were essential to our success. Stay true to your principles, and uphold the Constitution upon which this country was founded. Good luck and God Bless you all.