Interest groups are alliance of persons with shared common interests resolute on persuading public policy in their favour. This non-profit advocacy groups enjoy federal tax exemption under the 501(c) (3) edict and discounted mailing charges. The rules however prohibit interest groups from active politics however, the 20 percent rule allows them spend a maximum 20 percent of their budget on advocacy and unlimited funds on lobbying.
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The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) started in 1871 during the Civil War in New York; is one of the most powerful interest groups with 4.3 million members. Along with the Gun Owners of America (GOA) they form the Gun Lobby pressure group, advocating for gun ownership as a civil right. They have vast influence on lawmakers in Washington ensuring firearms rights are not interfered with by opposing groups.
Based on the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the gun lobby interest group has successfully fended off anti-gun lobbyists arguing that every American has a right of gun ownership, self-protection and hunting rights. Despite efforts by elected officials to tame the groups, lobbyists always prevail.
Lobbyists exert their influence in the US Congress through committees and subcommittees where most of the legislation is deliberated prior to the enactment of bills. Failing to consult these groups will mean the bill stands little chance of passage within Congress.
The NRA has effectively forestalled the restriction of gun permit issuance for concealed armaments with only seven states managing to pass the laws. Similarly, gun lobbyists have gone to court in jurisdictions like Washington, D.C. with strict gun control laws and managed to overturn bans on gun ownership.
NRA successfully opposed the reintroduction of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 advocated by gun control lobby when it expired in 2004. During the Katrina disaster, the gun lobbyists opposed the confiscation of guns actively lobbying for legislation in Louisiana Act 275 and the Federal sponsored Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006 that prohibited confiscation of legal weapons from citizens.
The NRA along with other gun lobbyists has effectively advanced its programs due to ability in funding federal and state candidates supporting their causes. They thus opposed the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment seeking to trace firearms used by criminals to dealers. In 2005, NRA took the City of San Francisco, California, to court for passing legislation “Proposition H” that enacted an almost total gun ban for overstepping their mandate; and successfully reversing the ban when the court upheld this assertion.
The gun lobby groups defence of rights to firearms remains one of the most controversial and polarising campaign issues with the two main national political parties either supporting or opposing the group. The gun lobby normally supports the Republican Party but is fervently opposed by the Democrats who accuse the interest group of encouraging gun violence.
Thus NRA and the gun lobby endorsed Ronald Reagan for presidency in 1980 while in 1994, there ruthless onslaught on House Speaker Tom Foley and Congressman Jack Brooks led to defeats in long held seats.
The influence of interest groups and their lobbyists on politics and the government has continued to plague the US administrations for centuries. The ability of the gun lobby group to block legislation that does not favour their interests exemplifies the pervasive power of these pressure groups as selfish interests override the public good. There is therefore an urgent need to curb their ascendancy.