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Tips for writing to politicians and the media

We encourage all shooters to make their positions known to their Members of Parliament, we need more doing it. A few hints and tips for you: 

Appropriately address the representative you are writing to.

How to address Senators and Members

Include your full name and address. Politicians pay more attention to people who live in their electorate.

Be concise. Keep your letter short by raising only one or two key issues. Politicians receive many letters, so do what you can to make yours one that they will have time to read.

Ask a question on issues that require a personal response. Be clear on the action you want taken and make sure it is an action the politician can actually do.

Do not make speeches or offer opinions.

Make your letter original. It is better to use your own words than to use a template or form letter.

Request a response to your letter. Their response will usually be a form letter, but you will know that your letter has been seen.

Personalise your letter. If possible, include a personal story or information on how the issue affects you, your family, your business or people around you.

Mention your membership of the SSAA if you wish, but please do not use the SSAA logo on your personal correspondence. Remember that you are expressing your own views.

Personalise your relationship. If you have ever voted for the representative, contributed time or money to their election campaign or have met them, say so.

Be polite but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. Do not get aggressive or use abusive language.

Express your thanks. It is important for politicians and political parties to be able to share that they have been helpful or successful in their work.

WA Members of Parliament

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Tips for writing to the media

If SSAA members see a media report that is biased or unfair, how should they go about raising their points of issue with the news organisation?

Write an email to the journalist who wrote the story, CCing the editor, producer or whoever is in charge. Phone calls can be ignored or pretended that they never happened, but an email is in writing and leaves a record.

It is critical a few points be observed here:

Firstly, never criticise the journalist personally. Calling them names or casting aspersions on their journalistic abilities will mean your email is instantly ignored.

Take a friendly approach. Give the journalist the benefit of the doubt and assume any inaccuracies or bias are from a lack of knowledge on the subject, rather than a deliberate bias (even if it isn’t, or you suspect it is not).

Keep it fairly straightforward. Journalists are busy people and don’t have time to or simply won’t read a PhD dissertation on why, for example, the term ‘high-power’ is completely meaningless when it comes to describing any gun larger than a .22.

Pick only two or three, at most, examples of errors or inaccuracies to highlight. A point-by-point refutation of the entire story will also see your email ignored.

Explain why the inaccurate reporting of these facts is detrimental to shooters or the shooting sports generally.

Never tell the journalist that something ‘is not a story’. Few things pique a journalist’s interest (or annoys them) more than people telling them that something is not newsworthy. People who say that in relation to things which are not about celebrities or entertainment are quite often trying to hide things or have their own agendas.

Offer to help. Continuing on the assumption the errors are from lack of knowledge, be part of the solution. As well as being a genuine opportunity to help correct a lack of knowledge on a subject, it also helps to show you are not an angry weirdo who just wants to rant.

Include your contact details (first and last names, phone number and email address).

A suggested example email might go like this:

“Hi Sarah,

I read your story in the Bunyip Creek Herald regarding the Adler lever-action shotgun. As a licensed gun owner and keen sporting shooter I was disappointed to see it had some fairly significant inaccuracies. I appreciate how busy you guys are and that firearms are a fairly complicated subject, but when things like ‘the rapid-fire gun which can unload eight shots in just a few seconds’ is printed, it paints the shotgun as some kind of destructive mass-murder weapon and brands any law-abiding gun owner who might want one as being some kind of nutter.

Lever-action shotguns have been legally available for more than 120 years in Australia, even after the Port Arthur law changes, and the Adler is not fundamentally different from any other lever-action shotgun; it just looks a bit more modern and perhaps a bit scary to people without much knowledge of firearms.

If you’re doing further stories on guns or the shooting sports, I’m happy to help out as a local shooting club member - I shoot regularly at the SSAA Bunyip Creek Clay Target club and have been involved with it for many years.

Would you like to come out any weekend as our guest and try your hand at clay target shooting? It’s a lot of fun, would offer a first-hand experience of what the sport is like, and could make an interesting color piece as well.

Kind regards,

John Smith”

Letters to the Editor

If you would like to write a Letter to the Editor (to be published in the publication’s letters pages), then the SSAA’s view would be to suggest following the same basic suggestions as for complaining to the journalist directly, but making the focus a bit more general. For example: “As a law-abiding gun owner, recent sensationalist media reports regarding the Adler lever-action shotgun are deeply concerning. The outright misinformation and inaccuracies being reported are causing real damage to a legitimate sport and directly affecting its members here in the community...” If enough people write enough letters consistently, the message will get through eventually.

For what it’s worth, one respected journalist, who is also a SSAA member, says he has never heard any of his colleagues - at any media outlet he has worked in - make disparaging remarks about shooting, shooters, or guns generally. He honestly does not believe the average non-shooting Australian actually gives gun ownership any thought in their day-to-day lives; journalists support proper licensing and registration, but don’t generally have a problem with licensed, law-abiding people owning guns for target shooting and to a lesser extent, hunting.

Become a member

When you join SSAA you become part of Australia’s largest shooting organisation and join thousands of other people around the country in ensuring the future of the shooting sports.

As a member you’ll have access to shooting clubs, a national magazine and a great insurance package for your firearms at home and in the field along with lots of other great benefits.

Your membership gives us strength to lobby the State and Federal Governments on matters that affect our sport. The greater our membership, the more effective we are.