#MEP: How to communicate with politicians

From David Karásek , speaker of LEX – Czech firearms rights association

I wrote this because of reactions of many MEPs who – especially in December – complained to me that they got many impolite and even threatening messages. I decided to write this short explanation why politeness pays: take it as advice from who fights for firearms rights for long time and collected some experience. As leading member of LEX gun rights association, I often deal with people who actually write gun laws and I talk with legislators on national and european level. I have this opportunity because I represent great numbers of people; I can reach so high only because I stand on top of pyramid.

Sometimes, this democracy becomes a bit more direct – when people I represent decide to contact politician on their own. That’s great, because it shows politicians that I don’t represent some small special interest – that there’s lots of people out there who actually do care about their rights. However, the manner of this contact does also count. For a politician, every email from the citizen is sign that there is a problem which deserves his interest. LOTS of emails is sign of BIG problem. But if those emails are vulgar, or even threatening, the politician can easily get impression that this big problem is YOU.

I absolutely understand that when, for example, Commission wants to infringe on your rights on pretense of combating terrorism, you start to see in red. It’s quite natural. But if you sit to keyboard in this agitated state and send gutsy and explicit emails to everyone whose job description starts with euro-, you shall probably hit perpetrators and bystanders alike.

The grim political reality is that only very few politicians know anything about guns. Most of them don’t know anything about this issue and don’t even notice it by themselves when it comes into legislative process – many of our MEPs told us that they learned about Commission proposal from emails from Czech firearm owners. Please realize that this is entirely understandable: nobody can understand everything and have knowledge about everything that happens in politics. But in fact, these “bystanders” are absolutely essential for negotiators like me. They are people to whom we can come, explain them the problem, propose them our solution, and they are in position where they can actually do something about it. Of course, it also depends on their initial impression about who you are. When I start dealing with someone who was already sent to hell hundred times over and threatened because of something that really isn’t his fault, it’s quite difficult for me to explain him that you are just angry, not dangerous.

Let’s face it: we have to learn political correctness. It is called political for a reason: politics is a field of human activity where all success or failure depends on what you can negotiate and how many people you can convince. Stern but polite email like “Dear sir, I am citizen and voter, and this situation makes me very concerned” shall surely have better effect that “you son of a b…., you should swing for this”, especially when addressee has no idea what are you talking about. Vulgarities and threats don’t convince anyone, and actually worsen position of people who represent you. No matter how much emotions the situation does provoke and how great opposition and resistance shall it incite, it is still a raw conflict. Real solution starts when people sit and talk, therefore the worst situation that negotiator can find himself in is when nobody wants to talk with him.

Remember this when you write to politicians. Even discontentment and disagreement can be civil, and politician is then more willing to solve the problem in your way. Golden rule here says “You cannot be wrong with being polite”, as you cannot persuade those who oppose you with threats, you can only persuade neutrals into opposition in this way. And, also, don’t forget about positive feedback: politician who stands up for your rights may find great moral support in knowledge that you know and value him.

David Karásek , speaker of LEX – Czech firearms rights association

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