Politics class: NRA to press on with Houston conference despite Texas school shooting
This article picked by a teacher with suggested questions is part of the Financial Times free schools access programme. Details/registration here.
Edexcel Component 3, Section 5.3: Interest groups in the USA — their significance, resources, tactics and debates about their impact on democracy
AQA Component 3.2, Section 184.108.40.206: Pressure groups — debates concerning the power of pressure groups in the USA
Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:
See also this article, which gives more information on the NRA’s continuing political influence, despite financial and legal problems in recent years. It documents the organisation’s sponsorship of leading Republican politicians.
Background: what you need to know
The town of Uvalde, in Texas, was the scene of a shooting outrage in which nineteen school children and two teachers lost their lives. The incident forms part of a tragic pattern of killings over recent decades, which has focused attention on the remarkable accessibility of firearms in the US.
Several topics from the A Level Politics specification are referenced in this article. The part played by the Second Amendment (the ‘right to bear arms’) in sustaining the gun lobby is highlighted. The National Rifle Association is to continue with its annual conference elsewhere in the state, despite the furore over Uvalde, demonstrating the importance of pressure groups in US politics.
The article also reminds us of the polarised nature of US party politics, with Democrats and Republicans at loggerheads over calls for increased restrictions on gun ownership. Donald Trump’s planned attendance at the NRA event underlines this theme.
Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3
Evaluate the view that interest groups have a negative effect on democracy in the USA.
You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]
Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1
‘Pressure groups have a negative effect on democratic processes in the USA.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. [25 marks]
TIP: The article hints at the NRA’s influence by noting that senior Texas politicians are due to attend the conference despite the negative publicity following the Uvalde school shooting. The NRA is a good example of a pressure group, though you should also research groups that exert pressure on other issues, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or Black Lives Matter (BLM).
Graham Goodlad, St John’s College