Writing sincere letters to our elected officials

Many of us have received requests from a variety of groups to write to our elected officials about one issue or another.  I think that is a great thing.  It is hard to represent your constituents if they don’t tell you what they are thinking.  What I’m not fond of is when these groups supply you a with a form letter to send.  I was approached by a group trying to get people to write to their Maryland state senators and delegates as an appeal to oppose Senate Bill 281, Governor O’Malley’s “Firearms Safety Act of 2013.”   The group gave you the choice to write your own letter or send a pre-written one.  In my opinion, sending a pre-written letter to appeal for a cause is like buying your Mom a birthday card and just signing the bottom.  I believe when a person asks a senator, representative, or delegate to do something hard, like stand against their party line on a bill that strongly mitigates against our Second Amendment rights, that person should write from the heart.

Although I am a Libertarian, I usually vote for Republicans.  Senator Kathy Klausmeier, a Democrat, is the state senator for my district, District 8.  I didn’t know her stance on the Second Amendment so I wrote the following to her:


Senator Klausmeier:

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.  This is not a form letter.  I’m not a member of the NRA.  I don’t own any firearms that would be banned by this legislation.  I’m not a Republican or Democrat.  I just want to share in my own words why I would like you to consider voting against SB 281, The Firearm Safety Act of 2013. 

I am a systems analyst.  In my field, there is a practice called Lean Software Development.  It is a no-nonsense way to get quality software delivered on time, on budget, and according to specifications.  The second principle of Lean Software Development is any activity that does not add value to the customer is waste.  I had a hard time finding the stated objective of SB 281 in the 500+ words of the first sentence of the bill, but I think it is safe to say that the purpose is to make Maryland a safer place to live by placing certain regulations on firearms deemed to detract from public safety.  If SB 281 helps to make Maryland safer, it adds value to people like you and me.  If it doesn’t, it’s waste.  I’m not going to insult your intelligence with clichés like the “guns don’t kill, people kill” argument.  I’m not an attorney or constitutional scholar so I’m not going to burden you with my line-by-line opinion of SB 281.  I’m sure that plenty of other well-intended people have gone on ad infinitum over this to you.  I would like to make one point.

My point: SB 281 and the flood of firearm legislation across the nation are actually making the problem worse, not better. 

The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the sale, manufacture,  and transportation of most alcoholic beverages.  The 13 years that followed its ratification gave birth to organized crime as we know it.  The business model of organized crime is simple: (a) produce, distribute, or provide a good or service that is illegal with a low cost and a high rate of return, and (b) charge a higher price in proportion to the risk of capture and loss.  Alcohol fit that model to a “T.”  Even better, many people did not see anything morally unethical about alcohol so its use was socially acceptable.  By the time the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified, organized crime had become so strong and well-financed that it was able to smoothly transition from bootleg gin to bootleg pharmaceuticals.  Alcohol consumption increased after Prohibition began and did not drop until after its repeal (see http://www.albany.edu/~wm731882/future1_final.html).  While I don’t have numbers to back this, I think it is safe to say that in the year between ratification and enforcement of Prohibition, sales skyrocketed.  Today, in light of all of the legislation at the state and federal levels, people are buying firearms and ammunition at a pace without par.  If you go to websites for companies like Cabela’s (http://www.cabelas.com) or Bass Pro Shops (http://www.basspro.com) and try to buy something as mundane as .22 caliber long rifle ammunition, the sort of ammunition kids are trained with, you’ll find it is either completely out of stock or is on a long back order.  Go to Dick’s Sporting Goods off of Campbell Blvd. and try to find any sort of ammunition.  For the most part, it is gone.  Go to Harford Rd. and check in with the people at Christian Soldier or Just Guns.  They cannot keep anything in stock.  The rate of gun purchase is so high that it takes over 30 days for someone like me that legally purchased a non-assault pistol to be able to take possession of it because of the massive backlog created by law-abiding citizens.  By reasonable projections, it will be as much as 60 days before I can take possession of my gun.

The skyrocketing legal purchase of guns is a serious problem on two fronts.  The first is that many good people that would not have owned firearms are now purchasing them.  Even though Marylanders have to either be veterans (like me) or take a firearms safety course to purchase a firearm, that doesn’t make them safe firearms owners.  My firearms are individually locked up, unloaded, and well-maintained.  The ammunition is stored separately.  I even made sure that the ammunition I purchased is designed to not penetrate walls so if I am legally protecting my home, I am not putting my neighbors at risk if I happen to miss.  When they were little, I personally trained my kids in safe firearm use, just like my grandfather, a first-generation American taught me.  They grew up knowing the rule that a firearm is to always be treated as loaded, even if you know it isn’t.  When my grandchildren get older, I hope to be able to teach them the same lesson.  However, not every household will follow those rules.  Kids will accidentally get shot.  More kids will accidentally get shot because more households will have firearms. 

There is something else that makes a novice gun owner very dangerous; the inability to kill an intruder.  If someone asks me if I think they should buy a firearm, my first question is, “do you have the ability, without hesitation, to kill another human being?”  While being threatened can make a person stronger due to the flood of adrenaline, it does not improve that person’s resolve to use a firearm properly.  Imagine the scenario of an unarmed burglar entering a house to steal something.  That person does not have any intention of killing the residents of the home.  Enter the scared novice gun owner holding a legally purchased .38 caliber pistol.  He hesitates for several seconds, squeezes off a poorly aimed round, and misses.  The burglar, out of self-preservation, rushes the gun-owner who is afraid and is doubting his ability to kill someone to the point of not even trying to take a second shot.  The burglar takes the pistol, kills the resident, and runs.  What should have been a burglary with no victims at best and a dead burglar at worst has now become the homicide of an innocent Marylander.
The second front is worse.  Go back to the organized crime business model.  An illegal market gains value from the ability to produce and provide illegal goods and services cheaply with minimal risk.  Increased risk results in increased prices.  Smuggling guns into the country is very risky.  However, when millions of non-gun owners become gun owners and gun owners stock up on guns, there is more “product” to be gotten through simple burglary.  An amateur thief cannot smuggle a case of firearms into the country.  However, an amateur thief can easily figure out who the gun owners are in the neighborhood and rob them.  The result is more illegal guns on the street where no law in the land can touch them.

We in the 8th District are proudly purple, not just because of our Ravens, but because we have many people from both parties.  As our voice in Annapolis, dedicated public servants like you take care of our needs and desires.  I don’t know the polling numbers, but I suspect there are a lot of people in our neighborhood who would like to see SB 281 fail.

Sincerely yours,
Andrew Knaster


I found out after having sent the letter that Senator Klausmeier has been a consistent advocate of Second Amendment rights.  So not due to my letter alone, our Senator voted against SB 281.  She also took part in the filibuster against it. She responded to my letter on the day after the vote and failed filibuster and detailed her actions.  For the first time in a while, I felt good about being part of the process, even though my cause failed.  I also felt good that I kept the tone of my letter civil and personal.  Those who know me, know I can get pretty agitated over things political.  Late last year, when I was writing posts about our President, I referred to him as Mr. Obama.  I thought I was being respectful, but someone kindly pointed out that the protocol for referring to the President in the third person is “President __________________.”  I checked and she was absolutely right.  That discussion caused me to re-examine myself in this regard.  I try to follow the direction of the Bible as much as I can.  For over 20 years, I have been well-acquainted with Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  In light of that, it didn’t seem right to do anything short of following protocol out of respect for the office, even though I highly dislike the bulk of the policies that come from it.  I also have grandchildren and people that I mentor to set an example for.  I have called him “President Obama” or “the President” since then.  I would have felt awful if I took a combative tone with Senator Klausmeier.

True success in a fight is measured not only by the result, but also by the way the fight was fought.  We should always seek to fight hard.  We should also fight cleanly.


2 thoughts on “Writing sincere letters to our elected officials

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