Left Justified: Writing our congressman

May 5, 2010

By Stanley Campbell

I sent my congressman a suggestion. He answered my question with a firm “No.” It was delivered via e-mail, which seems to be the best way of corresponding with our elected officials.

Letters might contain white powder and must go through special security measures. When we write a letter to our congressman, we’re lucky if they get it in time to make a difference in their vote.

If you’re a contributor to our congressman’s re-election, you’ve got his cell phone number and can call him directly. I saw a businessman call Congressman Donald Manzullo and had him on the other end of his phone. He was getting nowhere. I could tell he would make little headway with our representative from the 16th District: the guy wasn’t being specific enough.

When you talk to a congressman, you better have your facts straight, your issues down, the exact number of the legislation, and the day it comes to a vote. Otherwise, nada.

Here’s the e-mail I got back from Manzullo:

Thank you for contacting me about regulations surrounding gun shows. It is good to hear from you.

On May 7, 2009, Representative Michael Castle introduced H.R. 2324, the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act. This legislation would require all gun dealers to conduct background checks for any firearms sold at gun shows. The bill further increases criminal penalties for straw sales and recordkeeping violations by gun dealers.

Please know that I am a strong proponent of protecting our families and communities from gun violence. However, I am deeply skeptical of any new gun control legislation because these measures usually penalize aspiring or law-abiding gun owners. I believe that criminals are law-breakers by definition and no amount of gun control legislation will impair their ability to gain access to firearms.

H.R. 2324 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security where it awaits further consideration. Please rest assured that I will keep your views in mind should this legislation come to the House floor for a vote.

Thank you again for contacting me about this issue. Your input is important to my work here in Washington.

Sincerely,

/M/

Donald A. Manzullo

Member of Congress

As you can see, he said no. Manzullo will not vote to make it more difficult for gun sales at gun shows. And I don’t blame him. He gets a lot of support from gun dealers, as well as gun owners and “supporters of the Second Amendment” (though I do not know how many of them are in a “well-regulated militia.”)

But I don’t want to get off track. I want to write about contacting our representative in Washington, not about gun sales (though they are doing well, and the guns are being used on the streets, which always increases gun sales).

The best way to contact Congressman Manzullo is to meet with him in person. If you gave him some money, he might come to your office or home. It’s legal to give money to a politician, as long as it’s for his election campaign. If he doesn’t have opposition, and then retires, he gets to keep the money. Nice.

Which is why our congressman may be so angry with the mayor of Freeport, who’s gonna give him a run for his money this coming November. Manzullo will be out a million dollars. If I was Don, I’d quit now and take the money.

So, if you can’t meet with Don personally, try to meet with one of his staff. Watch it—some of them are a bit surly, at least the guys. I went all the way to Washington, and got to meet this young man who constantly rolled his eyes when I proposed dropping the travel ban to Cuba. You’d think I’d asked him to go to Cuba. But he can’t. There’s a travel ban for Americans by the American government. And Don won’t help.

If you go to Washington, D.C., to visit with our congressman, don’t carry a gun. Funny how the most protected members of our country, politicians in Washington, D.C., don’t care about extending that protection to the rest of their constituents. Maybe they should all go to Cuba.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the May 5-11, 2010 issue

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