13 Tips for Testifying

If you joined us at the Senate hearings on the 25th, thank you. There was a good turnout of pro-gun Rhode Islanders, but we need all of you again on Wednesday, and your friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers too. The anti-gun elements are planning their big push for the Wednesday hearings, and we must be there to respond. Tripling our showing is the minimum requirement for victory. If you showed up Thursday, please bring two friends with you on Wednesday.

Hearings will go long into the night, so you can come after work and still be allowed to speak. Here are some tips on how to prepare.

  1. 2 Minutes: You will be allowed two minutes to speak. That’s enough time to put in a lot of information if you are efficient with your words. Filling two minutes of time usually takes about 300 words on paper. That’s about double what you’ve read in this post so far. If you think 2 minutes is too short, just think of all the radio ads you hear and can’t wait until the end. They’re usually 30 seconds, and the long ones are usually a minute. Two minutes is plenty of time to make your point, but you need to be prepared.
  2. Showing Up Late: If you think working until 5:00 or 6:00 is a problem, don’t. There will be plenty of time for you to testify. In fact, we’ll be needing you right then because the first round of folks who showed up will be nearly exhausted by the time you (the reinforcements) arrive. Please show up, even it it’s late.
  3. Don’t Ramble: There was some great testimony on Thursday. We all knew whose testimony was great, and whose wasn’t. It’s OK to not be the best testifier, it’s more important that you show up.  But if you have the time to watch some of the videos, you’ll see what makes great testimony and not so great testimony. You can watch video of the hearing by clicking here. I suggest you watch a bunch of these testimonies and take some notes about the different speakers. You’ll learn a lot about how to prepare.
  4. Be Polite: I was told at the end of hearings someone got up and told the senators that if they tried to take his guns he’d give them the bullets first. While this is an emotional issue for us all, this amounts to threatening the senators. Put yourself in their shoes. If someone says they’re going to give you their bullets first, are you going to want to vote alongside that citizen? I wouldn’t. Leave that kind of talk to Facebook posts folks. These senators and representatives hold our rights in their hands until the next election. Let’s try to make them friends rather than enemies. It’s a good idea to greet them at the beginning of your testimony too. For example, “Thank you Chairwoman Ajello and members of the committee for having us hear today…yada yada yada.”
  5. More on 2 Minutes: You only get to testify once, on all the bills being heard. So that’s 2 minutes to cover all the bills. It’s better if you choose one bill and focus on a single salient point about why that bill is bad for you and your family than to try to show your opposition to all the bills at once. With nearly two dozen bills now between the House and Senate, it’s too much to cover. Stick with one or at most two.
  6. Repetition: It’s OK to repeat someone else’s testimony, but it’s better if you can explain a bill’s effects on you. That way the representatives are getting new information each testimony they hear.
  7. Practice: Practice your testimony so you don’t have to read it. The best advice I have heard for this is to sit in front of a mirror (tape yourself if you have the technology available) and recite your testimony. Try to get your time down to 1 minutes and 40 seconds if you can, that way you can slow it down for the hearing. SPEAK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY.
  8. Can’t Stay to Testify: If you absolutely cannot stay to testify, you should still show up, sign up to testify and submit your written testimony to the clerk. When the representatives see a stack of pro-gun testifiers vs only a few anti-gun testifiers, they’ll take notice.
  9. Waiting: Bring food, a magazine (or novel), and a cell phone to occupy your time (and a smart phone so you can read updates on my Facebook page or Twitter feed).  Some great folks brought food and drink for others. If you have the means, please think of your fellow patriots. I’m planning on bringing something with caffeine in it to help the troops stay awake.
  10. Dress Code: Business attire is nice, but not absolutely necessary. Please come clean and dressed as well as you can. If you get off work at 5:00 or 6:00 and need a shower before you go to the State House, you’ll have plenty of time for that. If you’re wondering whether or not the hearings are still going on, check my Facebook page for updates. Send me a message and I will respond ASAP.
  11. Guns and Knives: DO NOT BRING GUNS OR KNIVES TO THE STATE HOUSE. The Capitol Police will confiscate your knives and they are becoming less and less inclined to give them back. Obviously if knives are a no-no, guns are as well. Don’t come armed.
  12. Don’t Take the Bait: Representatives who disagree with you will absolutely be trying to bait you into saying something stupid/radical/silly/or untrue. Don’t take the bait. If you’re unsure of an answer to a question, it hurts much less to just say, I don’t know the answer, or even better, “I’ll get that information to your office by the end of tomorrow.”
  13. Media and Opposition: In similar fashion media outlets looking to sell stories will attempt to bait you into saying something that you’ll wish you hadn’t. Don’t avoid media, but don’t B.S. them and don’t give them any red meat with which to tarnish your reputation (and by extension the reputations of all of us). Draw heavily from your prepared testimony when talking with media so you don’t get flustered. As for our opponents, they will use every trick in the book to make you look like unfeeling radicals bent on owning nuclear weapons. Ignoring them is the best way to avoid any pitfalls.

This list isn’t everything you need to think about when you testify, but for now it’s the best I’ve got. I’ll add more, and I’m sure you can all add some tips in the comments section.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: PLEASE SHOW UP WEDNESDAY MAY 1. The rally starts at 2:00pm and testimonies start at 4:30pm. If you have to choose between rallying and testifying, choose testifying. If you can make the rally, I’ll see you there.

P.S. It’s late and I wrote this at light speed, so please forgive any typos etc.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.notarianni Dave Notarianni

    It seemed like they wanted to hear the technical problems with the bills and got bored with the endless numbers and studies.and were looking for middle ground to please everybody thats why they got held for study and the 2014 elections. are on their minds not to mention the rumors of the Exeter town counsel recall over the local permit issues as they know gun owners never forget. There was no love from the committee for the AG wanting to be in charge of all permits.