A Conversation with Tracey Wilson VP of PR for the CCFR – Part 1.
……….I recently had the great pleasure of having an extended conversation with Tracey Wilson. Tracey is the Vice President of Public Relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights or CCFR for short. The CCFR is an organization dedicated to giving Canadian firearms owners a voice in government and advocating for responsible and reasonable legislation for law abiding owners to continue to hunt, compete, and training in shooting sports.
……….Unlike the National Firearms Association (NFA) and the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) who have been established and around for decades the CCFR are the new kids on the block. Only a couple of years old the CCFR has been plowing a straight line directly to government to advocate on firearm owners behalf by meeting directly with members of the current government such as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness as well as people from the official opposition such as Michelle Rempel who is also an outspoken advocate for firearms owners in Canada.
……….Tracey and I spent well over an hour and a half talking shop, covering her background, the landscape of firearms ownership in Canada past, present, and future, what having a voice directly in Ottawa does for regular Joe Canada gun owner, what the CCFR is proactively doing in the firearms community, education, promotion, and new initiatives on the horizon. Tracey is so passionate about being a positive voice to firearms owners that it would be impossible for me to capture the essence of our conversation in just one article. So I’ll be rolling this out in multiple parts. Here’s some of that conversation below.
Wally F.: Tracey what is your history and background, how did you get involved in firearms before the CCFR?
Tracey Wilson: I am the only in house registered lobbyist for gun rights in Canada and I’m the VP of Public Relations [for the CCFR]. I’ve been shooting for about twenty years now… we’d go shoot our rifles and shotguns… hunting is only a certain season right, and especially in Quebec the season is pretty short for [hunting]. The more I got in to it, I started thinking you know I’m a small person I’m 5’2” and I find sometimes these guns are not designed for smaller people… I got together with some friends and started going to the range and I was trying their handguns. It’s a lot harder than it looks, gang bangers in movies doing their drive-by shootings and I always laugh… it’s not that easy, it’s really difficult to hit your targets sometimes right.
WF: It’s hard enough to hit a man-sized target on a square range consistently let alone in a moving vehicle.
TW: Oh yeah, it’s pretty out there… So I started shooting handguns and I basically had no formal training in it at all. So Trevor Furlotte he runs Slam Fire Radio and also a big gun guy in the community and a CCFR director, he was running a Black Badge course in New Brunswick and I thought I’ll go try that. It was a lot of work. We had to practice for days and days, because here I am taking a Black Badge with limited experience. But I got the hang of it and I really loved this.
TW: The whole thing that got me into advocacy was… I was living on the Ontario side in Ottawa and my hunting cottage was out in Quebec. I would be driving with Ontario plates up to the cottage in Quebec with firearms in my truck. I would always be targeted by [law enforcement] in Quebec and I started getting really annoyed with it. So I started to get involved with the NFA and CSSA and there was a big group of us that felt there was a big void in advocacy… we found there was no big push on public image or public relations and even the lobbying was really cold. We started with tinkering with the idea of creating a PR arm for the firearms community. We started pulling people in, I’d like go out and head-hunt the most innovative people, I didn’t want it to be the same old song and dance, we’ve kind of had 30 years of bad branding. I head-hunted Rod Giltaca and Michael Loberg and Jamie Elliott. People we found, and saw what they did. Rod is an excellent instructor, so rational and so likeable so easy to talk to so believable that I think that this is really something.
TW: We started small, we incorporated in August of 2015. We spent a lot of the time building our by-laws [and] putting out a set of public facing policies [that] nobody else has done. So that way when people [ask] where does the CCFR stand on concealed carry I can literally just pull out a link [online] and say ‘Here you go!’ this is our official stance. We did that for a number of topics. There’s fifteen policies in total. We wanted to put that whole framework together because there had been a few other attempts by people in the community to do these little start up organizations but without a solid foundation and a network… You’ve got to have a plan. We started small we open the doors for memberships in October of 2015 and we’ve gone to a size comparable to the other organizations. This is purely organic because a lot of the memberships in a lot of the other organizations are club memberships. My CSSA membership, I’m forced to buy that as a condition of being a member of my club. It’s pretty easy to accumulate large memberships when you’re capitalizing on the entire gun range [memberships] some have 1500 members or more.
WF: So you’re artificially inflating their membership based on just where people can shoot.
TW: That’s 100% right, so when they talk about the strength of their organization literally the vast majority of their members are forced to be members just for insurance purposes through their range.
TW: We want to do things a little differently, so we created the Explainer videos. Here’s the thing, you can have an organization and have a figure head and they’re the voice of your community and you assume they are out there representing you well and speaking for you and speaking on behalf of you, but it’s a lot more powerful to have hundreds, thousands of those. So we thought we want gun owners to be able to have the tools in their toolbox to advocate and debate effectively on their own. We are also a voice for them, but this has got to be a group effort, you can’t rely on one person or one board of directors to advocate for 2.2 million people right?
TW: So we started with the Explainer videos it was completely Rod’s baby it was his dream child he thought them up. We put those into production, they were extremely expensive, but these are the kind of projects that I think finances should be allocated to. We’re able to do that because we’ve kept it largely volunteer based, we have one staff and that’s me. Everybody else volunteers their time, we have that benefit of being able to allocate the majority of member dollars right in projects that literally [and] directly benefit them. So it’s a little bit [of a] different mindset, it’s hard because when people are volunteers you can only demand so much of them. We’ve got people that are putting in hundreds and hundreds of thousands of hours on [working] for free. …It’s a completely different thing when you jump in to it yourself and see what it’s all about.
……….This is just scratching the tip of the iceberg with my conversation with Tracey. It was very apparent to me early on in our discussion that she is laser focused like a PEQ-15 on clear representation of gun owners with the government, pushing a transparent mission statement, and actively working on educating not only non-firearms owners, but gun owners as well on what the CCFR is all about and they can do for Canadians. To take a more in-depth look at the one of the many resources that the CCFR provides such as the Explainer videos check them out here: http://gundebate.ca/ .
……….In the next part of my interview with Tracey we’ll be discussing the current work she’s doing lobbying the government, working as one of the few if not only females in the firearms community, public misconceptions about guns, and winning over Canadian’s one person at a time towards responsible firearms ownership.
Reporting for TV-PressPass