The NRA, National Rifle Association, was formed in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate. This followed a poor show of marksmanship by their troops. The main aim of forming the group was to encourage people to practice shooting as a sport or a form of entertainment.
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AARP, American Association of Retired Persons, is a membership organization that is comprised of senior citizens who are 50 years and above.
It was founded by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus to protect the social life interest of senior citizens ranging from job placement, money management, tax preparation and prescribed drug cost especially so negotiating for an affordable health insurance. Both NRA and AARP are prominent, but I find NRA being more powerful than AARP.
Between the two organizations AARP, has the larger membership of about 35.7 million as of February 2010 (NRA, 2011) which is almost ten times that of NRA which was estimated at 4.3 million(Opensecrets.Org, 2011). Over the years, changes occur in most interest groups that see their membership rise or fall.
Some of these reasons are as a result of members’ frustration due to lack of expected results or while membership surge occurs when the interest groups attains certain goals in such an incredible way.
In the year 2005, for example AARP was said to have a membership of about 39 million (Kaiser, 2005), this number has however dwindled over the years to the current 35.7 million. On the other hand, NRA membership has been growing through the years even though not at a very high rate. In many cases, growing numbers indicate growing faith if not trust and power.
With such a high number of members comes power, but that is not always automatic. Power is the ability to influence policy making in both the political arena and legal framework. Having a high number of members therefore puts an interest group in a better position for negotiation than its counterpart; however, power is sought rather than given on a silver platter.
While AARP may have the numbers to be able to put so many candidates through to congress their influence on policymaking is minimal as compared to the influence made by the NRA.
With its 4 million members, NRA is able to reach out to the congressmen and influence the policies that they make in a way that favors and protects the interest of her members (AARP, 2011). In 1934 for instance, NRA formed legislative affairs division to counter attacks on the second amendment rights.
In 1975, NRA realized the importance of having a political defense to the second amendment and formed the Institute for Legislative Action, (Opensecrets.Org, 2011). In fact sometime this year NRA carried out a survey to establish the problems her members were facing in getting initial firearm certificates and even those renewing (Alger, 2011).
Basically, NRA opposes any attempt to restrict gun ownership including background check on those wishing to acquire firearms and worse still firearm registration. Unlike NRA members who exude confidence and gratitude, many members of AARP have ended up frustrated by this interest group due to what they consider poor lobbying of their rights.
In an article, Frank Kaiser claims that more than 14 million seniors under Medicare plan without drug coverage still struggle to buy medicine among other expenses (Kaiser, 2005). If healthcare was the main objective and idea behind the organization then the organization has failed its members. AARP then lacks the power to have the interest of her members catered for.
Over the years, AARP has severally been accused of furthering other interests other than those of its members. Frenk (2010) observed that more than 40 million people are still uninsured due to lack of affordable quality services.
While AARP is supposed to be a non-profit making organization some of her revenue has been attributed to proceeds that are made from selling insurance and other financial services to the members. In 2005, AARP was involved in a tag of war with the then administration of President Bush who wanted to introduce a scheme where social security would be privatized.
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This opposition made some people to question the credibility and integrity of the organization. Indeed James K. Glassman an enterprise scholar is reported to have said that the idea suggested by Bush had fewer risks as compared to AARP’s selling of mutual funds (Gleckman et al, 2005).
This was a real show of distrust. AARP’s reputation suffered a major setback in the sense that it was clear to all that the organization put commercial interests before that of the members.
Controversy seems to have dogged AARP for a long time. In the year 1979, one of its founders Leonardo Davis was forced out of office in a most embarrassing way on claims of illegal business practices and representing the organization in fraudulent way (Jeanty, 2011).
In the year 2007 AARP made 497.6 million dollars from royalties and fees that the organization receives from the companies she endorses (Kaiser, 2007).
Reputation is a vital component of power or the route to get there. Once the reputation is dented power is lost. Since both NRA and AARP are interest groups and nonprofit making at that the one sure way of comparing the money they have is looking at the way they spend the money to get their way or to influence policy makers through lobby groups.
AARP have an upper hand in that their members are exclusively senior citizens who comprise nearly half of the voting citizens and therefore they can claim to have put most politicians to office.
NRA on the other hand is not as lucky. The only way for her to get access to power is through lobby groups. The NRA lobby machinery or group is so powerful that it has grip on both houses of congress. Actually in the year 2001 NRA replaced AARP as Washington’s most powerful lobbying group.
When it comes to organization, NRA has got it all right. In order to make their lobbying as effective as possible, NRA established Institute of Legislative Action (ILA). This arm of NRA serves also to mobilize and inform the public about various undertakings of the organization.
This makes members feel involved and part of the whole process. Apart from visiting universities and giving talks NRA has accounts on the social network such as twitter and facebook. Keeping in touch with her members makes them feel closer and important which is a vital factor in maintaining a good reputation and power.
AARP on the other hand seem to have slept on their job. Most of the lobbying and public relations are marketing related and most people feel that their needs are not being addressed or worse still the organization has lost focus of its mandate. Though AARP has attained some heights in the past, there is need to re-focus.
According to New York Times, “AARP has adopted a pragmatic, bipartisan approach over the last decade. Using its well-financed lobbying machine, the group was instrumental in obtaining Medicare prescription drug coverage in 2003, blocking George W. Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security in 2005 and getting President Obama’s health care plan passed in 2010.” (Lynch, 2011).
The damage done to AARPs reputation is immense and their power to influence decision is little. If world ratings are anything to go by then good reputation is power according to my personal perspective. In his article Daniel Drezner shows how the perception of the US has changed across the globe.
He has done this by comparing the perception of the US by other countries when President Bush was in power and when President Obama took over. When several people, especially those that you wish to manipulate, think you are a good person, they also tend to believe that your policies are equally good.
That may not always be true but even then, you have more supporters and friends in your camp who are at your disposal. They can trust you they can work with you. When President Obama took over in 2008 the only thing that changed immediately is the reputation of the country. America won more friends and without a word gained back its former position in the world (Drezner, 2009).
AARP. (2011). AARP history. Web.
Alger, L. (2011). Notes from the secretary general. National Rifle Association Journal, XC (2), 2.
Drezner, D. W. (2009). A hard measure of Obama’s soft power. Foreign Policy. Web.
Frenk, J. (2010).Globalization of health and health services. The Journal AARP International. Web.
Gleckman, H. et al. (2005). By raising its voice AARP raises questions. Bloomberg Businessweek. Web.
Jeanty, J. (2011). About the AARP Lobby. Web.
Kaiser, F. (2005). When will AARP grow some balls. Suddenly Senior. Web.
Lynch, F. R. (2011). How AARP Can Get Its Groove Back. New York Times. Web.
NRA. (2011). A brief history of the NRA. Web.
Opensecrets. (2011). National rifle Assn: Responsive politics. Web.