With a public hearing on gun bills set for this Friday, it’s time to repost our tips for preparing public testimony for the legislature – written and in person.
Legislative Testimony “Tip Sheet” originally published on 1/25/2013
Testifying (in person or written testimony) may seem like a daunting task at first. Use this “tip sheet” to help you as you prepare for your testimony. Regardless of how you testify (in person or written) many items are still the same. However, if you plan to submit written testimony AND testify in person, you do not need to stick to your written testimony. This is particularly helpful if you have knowledge of a particular subject that was not answered in previous testimony.
Keep all your testimony brief and “stick to the facts”. It is also helpful if you personalize your written testimony and explain how a bill will affect you. This also makes it easier for you to not repeat the same facts and testimony of previous speakers. If your written testimony is essentially the same as previous speakers, tell the committee you agree with previous speakers and you are available to answer any questions.
Regardless of how you testify, the following should always be included:
- Your name
- Where you’re from (city/state)
- State whether you support or oppose the bill
- Use the bill number and title of the bill (EX: HB 1234 An Act Concerning Firearms)
- Summarize your recommendation first and then add any needed explanation
- Restate your position on the bill
- Thank the legislators for their time and consideration of your position. Provide contact information and offer to answer any questions.
- BE RESPECTFUL—never use derogatory names or threaten/antagonize
If you are testifying in person, here are a few more tips:
- Each committee has a different operating procedure, however most only allow 3 minutes of testimony. You will be timed, and a buzzer or bell will sound once your time is up. If you hear that sound, please wrap it up as soon as you can. CAVEAT: If at the end of the 3 minutes, a legislator asks you a question, you may continue to speak to answer that question. However, please be respectful of time and try not to be excessive.
- If you cannot cover all the information in the required 3 minutes, add it to the written testimony you submitted and note to the legislators that there is more you provided in writing
- Rehearse your testimony. Anticipate questions and answers to those questions
- If you DO NOT know the answer to a question, say so! Offer to get the correct information to the legislator or their aid as soon as possible.
- Arrive and sign up early to testify.
- Bring enough copies of your testimony. This is often stated when a hearing will take place. Bring a few extra copies so you have a copy to go over and practice before you speak. Not all committees allow testimony to be submitted electronically.
- Dress appropriately for testimony. Business dress or business casual is preferred. No cammo, Printed T-shirts, etc. No hats. Your testimony may be televised.
- Make sure cell phones are “muted” or turned off
- Adjust and speak directly into the microphone. You should be no more than six inches from the microphone.
- Avoid technical jargon. Many legislators are not familiar with terms and acronyms.
- Plan to spend the entire day at the legislature. You may not have to, but depending on how testimony is organized (it could be by lottery) you may be there all day. Make sure plans are made with babysitters and employers ahead of time. It’s not uncommon for hearings to go through the evening hours.
- Bring food or snacks (there is a cafeteria and auxiliary store).
- DO NOT threaten or antagonize or argue with the legislators
- DO NOT bring weapons into the legislature.
- DO NOT clap, cheer or jeer during testimony. It only slows down the process and just doesn’t make us look good. Respect is key here.
If you have the time, make a visit to the Legislative Office Building (LOB) ahead of time and sit in on a hearing. This will give you a good idea of what to expect. Many of the hearings are also online at www.ct-n.com (The CT Network)
Avoid using outdated statistics. Also, make sure your sources are valid. I.e. if a legislator sees you reference for a statistic is a known biased “news” (Fox, MSNBC, Breitbart, etc.) outlet, it may be called into question (perceived bias). There are some GREAT resources for firearms statistics that help you avoid a perceived bias.
- Gunfacts.info – www.gunfacts.info This site has a downloadable book (available for purchase as well). GREAT information. All statistics are referenced in footnotes of every page.
- FBI Crime Statistics – http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats Data here is hard for “the other side” to refute as it comes straight from the FBI.
- Gun Cite – http://www.guncite.com/ – Not always up to date, but good source of ideas.
- CT Pistol Permit Issues – www.ctpistolpermitissues.com – More information specific to Connecticut. Defensive firearms use, Office of Legislative Research Reports, pivotal state, federal and supreme court cases and permit procedure information.
Other useful resources
- Connecticut Citizens Defense League – www.ccdl.us – keep current on issues affecting Connecticut.
CCDL also maintains an active presence regarding legislative efforts and informs members as soon as information is made available. CCDL is free to join and email lists are not shared with any other source.
- NRA-ILA – National Rifle Association, Institute for Legislative Action – www.nraila.org – NRA-ILA maintains a large web site with information on legislative issues around the nation.
- Connecticut General Assembly – www.cga.ct.gov – Lookup feature to find who your legislators are and how to contact them. Bill tracking – this allows you to read the language and any updates that may have been made. Hearing dates and times and any specific information for that hearing day (How many copies of testimony, etc.).