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Lobbying For Change With Moms Demand Action

I recently turned 65, and I'd never been to a lobby day. Since retiring a couple of years ago, I've become increasingly active politically, and I decided that I definitely needed to go to the Moms Demand Action Lobby Day at the Oregon Legislature on February 26 to advocate for gun sense legislation. Because of the snow, schools opened late that morning, my plans to car pool were upended at the last minute. So, I made new plans, and we headed to Salem in our warm coats and red Moms t-shirts, coffee in hand.

I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Salem. What I found was a whole bunch of people (many of whom I already knew!) gathered in a church near the Capitol. The organizers did an amazing job getting everything ready. There were personalized folders for each of us to provide us with our schedules and the essential information we needed to make an effective presentation to our representatives. We had snacks and coffee. We got buttons, stickers, and other swag. We mingled and greeted each other and got a chance to meet our fellow activists.

After several speeches and testimonials from organizers and gun violence victims, we left the church with our group coordinator to go to the Capitol. We had been warned that we might be harassed by gun rights extremists who had been “invited” to the Capitol the same day by NRA proponent Rep. Bill Post (who lost a committee assignment as a result of statements he made against gun sense advocates). However, except for a couple of people lurking outside several legislative offices, we saw no sign of the extremists.

My first group consisted of five women from my neighborhood (none of whom I had previously met), who were scheduled to meet with our representative, Barbara Smith-Warner, a staunch proponent of gun safety measures. Even though most of our group had never participated in a lobby day before, the meeting went very smoothly, and we all felt very comfortable discussing our concerns.

As soon as we left our meeting with Rep. Smith-Warner, we hurried over to the governor’s office, where a large group of us were greeted by an enthusiastic Governor Kate Brown, who pledged her support for gun safety measures to follow up on the ones passed in the 2018 short session.

We ended our meeting with a rousing send-off from Governor Brown and then a larger group of us made our way to Senator Michael Dembrow’s office. While we waited for our meeting with his staff, we were treated to a spontaneous celebration when House Speaker Tina Kotek emerged to cheers from supporters of the tenant protection bill establishing the first-in-the-nation state-wide rent controls. The bill had just passed the House and was headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. What a treat to see democracy in action!

Moms Demand advocates meet with Governor Kate Brown, a strong gun sense advocate.

Next, a large group of us had a productive discussion with Senator Dembrow’s staff. Several in our group were teachers and the stories they told about the active-shooter drills they participate in underscored the urgency that we all feel about eliminating gun violence.

Then, we were done. It was time to pack up and drive back to Portland, talking about our experiences on the car ride home. It was a good day. Being there as an identifiable group, in our red t-shirts, ready with talking points and personal experiences, made a difference. It bolstered our legislative allies and made opponents notice our strength and commitment. It was a great way for citizens to engage their representatives directly and hold them accountable.

Moms Demand Action will be holding another lobby day later in the spring, and there are many other lobby days scheduled by other advocacy groups during Oregon's legislative session. You can find an entire calendar devoted to them on the OneSmallThing PDX website, where you'll find details on dozens of bills, the policy reasons behind them, their proponents, opponents, and advocacy groups to give you the information you need to successfully lobby your legislators.

Mary Chaffin is chair of the One Small Thing PDX LegislatIve Task Force, a member of the OSTPDX executive team, and an organizer on the Indivisible Oregon Policy Team.

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