The Politics of Gun Control

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The Politics of Gun Control

In recent years, political discourse about gun control and the Second Amendment has become increasingly volatile. Gun lobbies such as the National Rifle Association are more organized and aggressive and their issue agenda has evolved as new and more powerful weapons and militia appear. On the other side of the debate, the critical wounding of James Brady gave gun control advocates a visible martyr with strong ties to Republican conservatives. In sum, gun control and the right to bear arms have become hotly disputed issues where political alignments are constantly shifting.

This paper will examine gun control legislation and look at factors that affect party cohesion on this specific issue. Paying special attention to special interest groups, particularly the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their campaign contributions, the congressional districts and the constituents, and third look at how current events and the media have had an impact on political action. I will show that political action on the Hill, by introducing bills and voting, is affected by those three things.

I'll begin by looking at one of the most recent pieces of legislation to be on the floor of the House, H.R. 2122 which failed to pass on June 19, 1999. Democratic Congressman John Dingell from Michigan introduced an amendment (H.A. 215) which passed on June 18, 1999 with a vote of 218-211. This amendment decreases the time allowed for a background check at a gun show from 72 hours to 24 hours. It also requires the FBI to prioritize background checks requested at gun shows be answered before other background check request. The amendment could also increase the minimum prison penalty to 15 years for crimes committed...

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... to reach voters (Jillson).



Alterman, Eric. "A Failure of Democracy." August 1999

Bai, Matt, "Caught in the Cross-Fire." Newsweek June 1999


Jillson, Cal. American Government: Political Change and Institutional Development. Harcourt Brace, 1998

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National Rifle Association web page,

Richie, Rob and Hill, Steven. "Why Gun control Legislation Always Fails" Mother Jones, June 1999.

Spitzer, Robert J. The Politics of Gun Control, Chatam, New Jersey, Chatham House, 1995

Vote Net, Information Federal Elections Commission of the United States

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