To foreigners who travel to America either for business or sight seeing, it is always a question that how American people can bear guns with themselves and they express their amazement when they become aware that American Constitution itself, has guaranteed the right to bear arms in second amendment that says” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But for American people who immigrated to the Wild Land many years ago , it was not odd to carry guns in order to secure themselves and their families in confrontation with Indians who had come and settled there many years before whites arrived at the boarder of New World. In fact the concept of gun has transformed to be the part of the American culture through the history, praised by many American people even nowadays.
But looking at the other side of debate reveals that recently the right to bear arms has been overdone led to the sever problems. For example, all of us can recall the assassination of John F. Kennedy, failed assassination of Ronald Reagan and unfortunately most recently the deaths of some American students who had killed by their friends who had brought gun to their schools.
So as a result of all these incidents the debate over gun control turned to be the “hot button” issue in American politics. Some arguments are for guns and against control and some of them are against guns and for control. For example, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the powerful lobbies which opposes gun control legislation supports American Constitution, second amendment, that has granted the right of carrying arms to American people.
Pro-gun, NRA lobby was founded in 1870s, “as a body which offered training and instruction in how to use firearms-specifically as a response to the poor marksmanship of Union soldiers in the Civil War- and later represented the interests of those using guns in sports and hunting.”(McKay, Et, al.2002.p.95)
However as the pro-gun lobbies, most powerful of them NRA, focus more on fighting against legislation that would limit the citizens’ right to access to gun, the anti-gun lobbies also take more attempts to grow in strength. The incident which led to the call for reform of gun legislation in congress was the failed Ronald Reagan assassination in which Reagan survived but his press secretary, James Brady, was wounded badly. So as a result James Brady’s wife, Sarah Brady, who was extremely against gun legislation, took hard attempts in opposing with the gun legislation in congress” although it took many years to achieve, congress finally passed the Brady Bill in 1993. The bill required a five-day waiting period and background checks on the purchase of a handgun.”(McKay, Et, al.2002, p.95)
Also in the year 1994 congress passed some laws against Gun-bearing which were supported by United States’ President, Bill Clinton including anti-crime legislation, the violent crime control, and Law Enforcement Act.
But regarding to all these attempts, pro-gun lobbies are still more powerful and more organized than anti-gun lobbies, interestingly supported by majority of American people. Although most of the American people insist on their right to own and bear arms but there are also many people who support the Brady Bill and some sort of gun control. For instance, Gallop poll conducted in January 2001 revealed that 54 percent of people in America wanted to make gun-laws stricter and only 14 percent favored weakening the existing laws.
To answer the question that how gun lobby can prevail on the policy-making process, one should focus on the majority of American people who support any form of anti-gun legislation but in a passive mode with no well established organization.
So as a result of the gun-control advocator passivity, Charlton Heston, the president of the National Rifle Association, can claim that “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”(McKay, Et, al.2002, p.96)
He as one of the pro-gun advocates argues about the necessity of owing and bearing arms to the American way of life, outlining the major reasons to justify this necessity.
According to Heston, the Founding Fathers who were concerned about the central powerful government, took hard attempts to add Bill of Rights in particular Second Amendment to the American Constitution in order to guarantee the right of citizens to arm themselves against Washington DC if it was needed.” The beauty of the Constitution can be found in the way it takes human nature into consideration. We are not a docile species capable of coexisting within a perfect society under everlasting benevolent rule. We are what we are. Egotistical, corruptible, vengeful, sometimes even a bit power-mad. The Bill of Rights recognizes this and builds the barricades that need to be in place to protect the individual.”(McKay, Et, al.2002.p.97)
Also he believes that the Second Amendment is more important than the First Amendment because without arms one can not defend his/her speeches.
But for anti-gun advocates who hate guns as they kill people, the story runs differently. Those advocates demand people to recall all the Wars in which the America was involved and the numbers of American people killed in those wars such as revolutionary war against England, Civil War, First and Second World Wars, etc. Also they emphasize on all gun-related deaths in recent years.
Anti-gun advocates also criticize the American National Policy by raising a question that why it is so easy for a person to get a handgun license in America than it is to get a driving license.
DECISION MAKING PROCESS
To answer how a specific issue such as gun control prevails on the decision making process, it is necessary to become familiar with the following factors presented in the process of decision making in Congress:
Information gathering, constituency interests, expert opinion, political ramifications and personal judgments.
To run this process, Congress Members play an important role. They are responsible to vote and decide on a variety of bills, motions, amendments and all the contemporary issues such as abortion rights, school safety, gun control, etc.
Before expressing the final decisions, members provided with the materials on both sides of any issue including letters, emails and phone calls all of them expressing different and controversial opinions. However, in reality there are many members who vote not based on the truth but on the benefit of interest groups and political parties.
To be honest it is really hard to stand indifferently and firmly against all influences which attack the members’ decision.
As mentioned above information gathering is the first step in the process of decision making regarding the contemporary issues such as gun control issue that provides congress members with the main arguments on both sides of the debate.
Members can use the Congressional Research Service, Committee reports, newspaper articles and even information provided by advocacy organizations or groups who are against the issue, in this regard gun control issue, as a material helped them to make their major decisions. Members are required to explain why they have decided so, those explanations are based on the resources that members have cited them.
The second step is a constituency interest which focuses on the Congress members’ responsibility to reflect the viewpoints of the majority of constituents, in members’ own area, who take the issue seriously. Members have to follow this step if they want to be elected for the next election.
The third step, as mentioned above, is the expert opinion. Although Congress members are responsible to work on the particular issue by analyzing many different debates to make their own final decisions, however some issues are such a complex ones that members need to consult with experts in this particular matter and take a benefit of the experts’ advices into the process of decision making.
Political ramification is the fourth step and more influential one in the process of decision making. It is necessary for the Congress members to understand the political ramification of a vote that means members should fully understand the political parties which are for or against the issue. In regard to the major issue it is common to see that two different parties stand on too different positions when they are required to vote for that issue. Also it is common to see that some of the senior members encouraged their colleagues to vote for one side of the issue which preferable to the particular interest groups or political parties, also the influence of the President is a point that must not be ignored in regard to the process of decision making.
And finally the fifth step is the personal judgment that refers to the Congress member’s ideological viewpoint on the particular issue. In fact their beliefs may be based on the religious or political trends.