Interest groups in the USA - The National Rifle Association

Term Paper, 2010

24 Pages, Grade: 1,0



List of Illustrations

List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 The formation and the development of the NRA

3 The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution as legitimization

4 The aims of the NRA

5 The organizations activities

6 Successes of the NRA

7 Criticism of the NRA

8 Conclusion


List of Illustrations

Illustration 1: Emblem of the NRA

Illustration 2 NRA website

Illustration 3: Speech of Chuck Norris at the NRAs annual meeting 2010

Illustration 4: John McCain

Illustration 5: Cover of the Americas 1st Freedom magazine January 2009

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

Interest- or Lobby groups are coalitions of people, who have the same basic attitude in one or more issues. Grounded on these preferences they try to make demands on other groups of the society to install, to enforce or to preserve their own interests.1 Their main objective is to get access to one or more key positions within the governmental system.2 The Lobby groups possess a decisive part within the political system of the United States of America since they exert strong influence by means of different measures on the Executive, Legislative, Judicative and the political parties to direct the policies and the legislation in the course of their preferences.3

In the American region the Interest groups are segmented into seven types. There are the so called business groups (e. g. National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)), the unions (e. g. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)), the lobbying groups of the agricultural sector (e. g. National Farmers Union (NFU)), and professional associations (e. g. American Medical Association (AMA)). Furthermore there are the advocacy groups from single states and cities (e. g. National League of Cities (NLC)), ethnic interest groups (e. g. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)) and single-issue lobbying groups (e. g. Mothers against drunk driving (MADD)).4 The characterization of the American system of interest groups is its very strong decentralized structure, its regional rootedness and its highly specialization founding on the extremely different interests.5 Due to this there is nowadays a very pluralistic system of advocacy groups with more than 20.000 registered associations in America.6 The National Rifle Association (NRA) represents an example of an American interest group.

In the present it is considered as one of the most powerful advocacy groups in the political System of the United States of America.7

The association advocates mainly for the protection of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and espouses for the rights of firearm owners.8 The National Rifle Association can be classified as a traditional single-issue advocacy group.

The aim of this paper is to research the influence of this lobbying group on the political system of the United States of America. Therefore it is necessary to point out the formation and the development of the association, to show its legislative legitimization, to display its aims and activities and to have a look at the achievements of the lobbying group.

2 The formation and the development of the NRA

The National Rifle Association was incorporated by George Wingate and William Contant in 1871. Both fought as Senior Officers for the Union in the American Civil War.9 Due to the consistently miserable shooting abilities from their troop members they founded an association, which supports and encourages rifle shooting on a scientific fundament.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Ill. 1: Emblem of the NRA

(Source:; accessed: 08.08.2010)

The first president of the organization became the former mayor of Rhode Island: Ambrose Burnside.10 In the initial years the NRA primarily offered shooting practices and shooting matches for the New York National Guard. Because of this, the association could seal the support from the city of New York and received its first shootings ranges in 1872. Subsequently further American states started to cooperate with the NRA and offered them ranges for shooting practices or any support by organizing marksmen’s festivals. Due to some victories in several shooting matches the NRA achieved recognition even in the international level in that time.11 In the beginning of the 20th century the organization started to establish shooting associations in all major colleges, universities and military academies to promote the shooting sports among America’s youth.

As a result, more than two hundred young people participated at a shooting competition in Sea Grit, which was organized by the NRA in 1906.12 Due to that and other measures, the membership figure of the association increased heavily during those years.13

In 1934 the NRA incorporated the Legislative Affairs Division to protect the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States against an increasingly number of attacks. At that time this section did not look after any lobbying activities, but provided information related to legislation and own analyses to its members.14 In the post-war era the NRA focused its activities primarily on the hunters’ community and established the first hunter education program in 1949. Furthermore the association intensified their efforts in training measures of law enforcement in the 1950s and 1960s, when they became the only national trainer of law enforcement officers.15 Due to the increased requirement of political protection of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, the NRA incorporated the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) in 1976, which was from then on responsible for the lobbying activities of the association.16

The year 1977 marked a strong turnaround point in the organizations’ strategy. In the course of the NRA’s annual meeting occurred a revolt (Revolt at Cincinnati) from the so called Federation for NRA against the current leadership of the association. Led by Neal Knox the group showed its dissatisfaction with the recent concentration of the NRA on topics related with environmental problems or outdoor activities.17 This fraction came off victorious out of this inner rebellion and the NRA changed from an organization primarily focused on the education of safe handling of fire rifles and on the coordination of shooting matches to one, which is until today totally committed against all types of firearms control.18 The new president of the association became the former executive director of the NRA-ILA: Harlon Carter.

His primarily aim was the immediate increase of the membership figure to strengthen their political position and influence. By his very aggressive advertising strategy Carter raised the number of member from 980.000 up to 1,9 Mio between 1977 until 1981.19 This increased membership number was one of the reasons why the association was able to achieve some political successes and to enlarge their political influence in the 1980s.20 In the year 1990 the NRA incorporated the NRA Foundation as tax-exempted organization that had the aim to collect means by donations. With that the association wanted to assure the promotion of any firearm related activity in the future.21 But the NRA was confronted with some severe problems in the early 1990s. On the one hand, the association was exposed to massive critics because of the series of deadly shootings and the subsequent started medial reporting. On the other hand, the dissatisfaction was growing within the organization against the leadership of the NRA. Members were arguing that the executive was losing the focus on the main aims of the association. In the end, all these events resulted in some enormous waves of resignations of members out of the NRA.22 Furthermore, the election of Bill Clinton as the forty-second president of the United States symbolized another problem for the organization, because he is a strict supporter of the anti-gun lobby. However, the association used these new circumstances to force once again their public relationship activities and its acquisition of new members.23 To the elections for the House of Representatives of the United States in 1994 the NRA publicized a list of twenty-four unfavored deputies who were running for an office. Because they voted in a gun-control related legislation (Brady Bill) against the NRA position, the organization asked its members to deselect these representatives. Actually, nineteen of these twenty-four deputies were not reelected to the office during the election from the 08th November 1994. That event showed clearly, that the NRA had regained the political power in Washington.24


1 (cf. Truman 1951, p. 33)

2 (cf. Truman 1951, p. 264)

3 (cf. Wasser 2007 p. 334ff; Storey 2007, p. 205ff)

4 (cf. Hübner 2001, p. 56f)

5 (cf. Lösche 2008, p. 46)

6 (cf. Wasser 2007, p. 329)

7 (cf. Eggen 2010, p. A19)

8 (cf. NRA 2010a)

9 (cf. Sierpien 2006, p. 1)

10 (cf. NRA 2010a)

11 (cf. Rodengen 2002, p. 25ff)

12 (cf. NRA 2010a)

13 (cf. Sierpien 2006, p. 2)

14 (cf. NRA 2010a)

15 (cf. NRA 2010a)

16 (cf. NRA-ILA 2010)

17 (cf. Sierpien 2006, p. 5f)

18 (cf. Carter 2002, p. 498)

19 (cf. Sierpien 2006, p. 6f)

20 (cf. Sierpien 2006, p. 10)

21 (cf. NRA Foundation 2010)

22 (cf. Rodengen 2002, p. 236)

23 (cf. Sierpien 2006, p. 13)

24 (cf. Rodengen 2002, p. 253)

Excerpt out of 24 pages


Interest groups in the USA - The National Rifle Association
Martin Luther University
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NRA, Lobbyismus, USA
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Sebastian Hammer (Author), 2010, Interest groups in the USA - The National Rifle Association , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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