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What We Can, and Cannot, Learn From the Success of the National Rifle Association

PLS 105

3 December 2018

Abstract

Most people wouldn’t think that a gender equity interest group could learn anything from the NRA. I disagree. Since the NRA is a large organization that influences gun policy, Americans United for Gender Equity (AUGE) can become equally as influential over policies regarding gender. The NRA wasn’t always as big as it is today, and AUGE can learn a lot from the strategies the organization used. In a similar sense, it can also learn what not to do from the NRA. By looking at the history of the NRA, it is easy to understand how a group can become overly political and out of touch with the original reason it was founded. Though AUGE does strive to influence political policy involving gender, it’s not meant to be a political group, much like the NRA today.

Keywords: legislation, laws, politicians, groups

What We Can, and Cannot, Learn From the Success of the National Rifle Association

As a democrat, I do not support the NRA. I believe that assault rifles should be banned, there should be thorough background checks for everyone that wants a gun, and that there should be longer waiting periods. Despite its opposition, however, the NRA is the most one of the most effective civil rights groups in the United States today. It hasn’t always been like this and has taken years for the association to achieve its status. Though the NRA was founded in 1871 (Spitzer & Political Science Department, 2018) and Americans United for Gender Equity (AUGE) was founded this year, there is still a lot that this interest group can learn from the NRA that can lead to national success.

Though the NRA was founded almost two centuries ago, it didn’t begin political endeavors until the 1970s. In 1977, dedicated and uncompromising members of the NRA took control of its annual convention and formally committed the association to defending the Second Amendment. First focusing on the states, the NRA lobbied to change state laws to protect the right to possess and carry guns. The organization realized that most gun laws were enacted by states, not the federal government, and that it could win significant victories there. This tactic would be effective partially by mobilizing NRA members, partially by incorporating the local affiliates it had in every state, and partially because opposition at the state level was largely absent. About thirty years later in 2008, the Supreme Court decided to overturn the District of Columbia ban on handguns in District of Columbia vs. Heller. It was a five-four landmark court decision that seemed to support concealed carry gun rights. The NRA also enlisted an academy that awarded grants and prizes to legal scholars for writing about gun rights. This program helped to gradually transform the culture surrounding guns in the United States. As the NRA continued to rise in politics during the 2000s, they supported more and more politicians, mostly conservative, who in turn passed legislation in favor of the NRA (Cole, 2016).

What can AUGE learn from this? AUGE can learn how to take a strong stance on gender equity. Like gun regulation, many gender laws are and can be mandated by the states. For example, California has a law that mandates female representation on public company boards (AllBusiness, 2018). AUGE can lobby in an appropriate and effective manner to get laws like this one passed in all states. AUGE can also create a program that gives out grants and prizes to scholars that write and do work involving gender equity. In time, this would help change how people view women in the workforce. This would help to influence individuals with authority such as politicians to create legislation that is in favor of gender equity. AUGE, like the NRA, should support all people that are in favor of their beliefs, no matter their party affiliation. With these strategies, AUGE has the opportunity to become just as successful and as well known as the NRA.

Though the NRA has become an influential organization involving gun legislation, the group did make some mistakes that hurt their progress. Before the mid 1970s, the NRA mostly focused on hunter safety and marksmanship. During that time period, the group supported gun regulation, such as waiting periods, that it does not support now. Before the 1970s, the NRA was not so much concerned with “the right to bear arms” as it was with educating hunters and teaching people how to shoot guns for sport and other recreational activities. In 1977, the group decided that it was losing the national battle against guns by not being political enough. The group started to pull away from supporting gun control, despite the fact that the laws pertaining to the five day waiting period and background checks overturned in 1993 were successful. (Spitzer & Political Science Department, 2018). As a result, it is easier for people who should not have guns obtain them and commit crimes such as mass shootings.

Though AUGE will most likely never have to worry about something as serious as mass shootings, the organization should still refrain from becoming too political. AUGE is an interest group focused on the equity for women in the workforce, and should stick to lobbying for legislation that is in favor of this. AUGE should also support any politicians, no matter their party affiliation, that are in favor of the group’s ideals. Most of these politicians would probably be democrats, but there are still plenty of republicans that are in favor of women equity in the workforce. AUGE would also have to remember not to become greedy with membership. Good things take time, especially with legislation. If AUGE pushes too hard for this legislation, then the organization risks facing lots of controversy like the NRA. Lastly, AUGE shouldn’t stop supporting laws because of politics. If certain laws in place are working, then they should stay in place. AUGE cannot risk making these mistakes that the NRA made because it will create a negative stigma around the group, mostly in the eyes of republicans.

Though the NRA and AUGE are very different groups, there are still plenty of things that AUGE can learn from the NRA. At the same time, there are also plenty of things the NRA has done that AUGE has to be careful to avoid. AUGE can easily become as effective as the NRA in a much smaller time frame if it uses the strategies that the NRA used and avoids the mistakes that the group made. By doing so, legislation favoring gender equity will be passed, and women in the workforce will be treated equally and given the same opportunities as men. This will give women a voice in fields that women aren’t traditionally involved in, such as computer science and engineering. Hopefully, this will improve the future of these fields by having another group of brains at work.

References

AllBusiness, E. A. (2018, October 04). California Mandates Female Representation On Public Company Boards. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2018/10/01/california-mandates-female-representation-public-company-boards/#22eb3ecd1775

Cole, D. (2016, March 11). What Liberals Can Learn From the N.R.A. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/11/opinion/what-liberals-can-learn-from-the-nra.html

Spitzer, R., & Political Science Department. (2018, September 19). The NRA's journey from marksmanship to political brinkmanship. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/the-nras-journey-from-marksmanship-to-political-brinkmanship-92160

Why Unregulated Press is Good for Society

PLS 105

3 December 2018

Abstract

Freedom of the press is a right that many people are aware of and take for granted. Not many people are aware of the fact that more people live in countries without freedom of the press than people that do. Unregulated press is necessary for a democracy, and without it the system of government becomes a dictatorship. This can be seen in multiple countries, but the best example is North Korea. In addition to the consequences of having a regulated press, there are also many benefits of having an unregulated press. The press serves as a watchdog for businesses, organizations, and the government. It calls them out whenever they do anything wrong, informing citizens of what is going on in the world. There is no other entity that can call out institutions and influence policy. Without unregulated press, the United States would have successfully covered up scandals such as the Watergate break in. People would not have been informed, and United States citizens, in general, would much rather be informed than ignorant.

Keywords: press, dictatorship, media, democracy

Why Unregulated Press is Good for Society

Freedom of the press is one of the most well-known rights of the American people, and it is exercised every day. People can say and report on whatever they want, and it is completely legal. This is necessary for a democracy because without it, the system would become a dictatorship.

The First Amendment declares: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The government cannot punish anyone for voicing their opinions in any way. This means that the press can perform its role in society: to agitate, investigate, and scrutinize our leaders and institutions. That freedom is what sets apart a democracy from a dictatorship.

Take North Korea, for example. If North Korea had freedom of the press, it would most likely be considered a democracy. Unfortunately, it does not. Because of this, North Korea has no independent journalists, and all radio and television receivers sold in the country are locked to government-specified frequencies. North Korea is not the only country that treats press as such. In fact, forty-five percent of people live in a country that suppresses freedom of the press (ACME, 2017). What these countries all have in common is the government has total control.

Print and electronic media in these countries are under heavy state control or influence. Some countries allow a few privately owned outlets to operate, but most of these are in the hands of regime loyalists. There has not been and independent media outlet in Eritrea since 2001. The country owns all media outlets, and even those that work for the heavily censored state press live in constant fear of arrest for any report perceived as a criticism of the ruling party, or on suspicion that they leaked information outside the country. Though most countries that limit free press own some or all outlets of it, not all countries do. Uzbekistan operates on a more non-traditional system, relying on cruel political intimidation to silence journalists, human rights activists, and the political opposition ("10 Most Censored Countries").

They are also usually run by one person, “the dictator”. This person has remained in power for years by rigging elections and manipulating the media. The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, got the position after his father passed in 2011. The country has been under this leadership since 1948, when Kim dynasty took over (Photo & Campbell, 2017). It remains in control by manipulating the Korean people to think that the regime is wonderful, and punishes those that go against or try to expose it. In Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki has been in power since 1993. He came to power by climbing up the political ranks when Eritrea was not yet an independent country. When it gained independence in 1993, Afwerki was elected both president and chairman of the aforementioned body, giving him control of the executive and legislative branches of government. As time went on, Afwerk’s regime became more and more repressive (Britannica, 2018), but he was able to remain in power by cultivating common fears that unite the citizens, yet dividing them by creating, maintaining, and enforcing divisions, distrust, and enmity among ethnic, religious, regional, and socio-political groups (Malk, 2018). In Uzbekistan, the first leader, Islam Karimov, was president for twenty-five years, despite that the constitution said a president could only be in office for two five year terms. After he died in 2016, a joint session of both houses of the Supreme Assembly of Uzbekistan appointed Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president in September 2016. In December 2016, Mirziyoyev was elected president in a popular vote, though international observers described the election as not free and fair, due to restrictions on media reporting and ballot stuffing (Nechepurenko, 2017). This is what happens in countries without freedom of the press, and it is horrifying.

Luckily, the United States is not like this. In the United States, journalists can write about any incident, good or bad. Being able to publish bad news and call out public organizations and institutions benefits the people by raising awareness and getting certain people out of control. In 1972, Woodward and Bernstein exposed the Watergate break in. Their reporting led to indictments of forty administration officials and eventually, the resignation of President Nixon (Dews & Young, 2017). This benefited the United States by getting multiple people out of the government that had committed crimes. No one should be in the government if they are involved with committing crimes, and effective journalism calls these people out.

Senator Bob Packwood was called out by Florence Graves, founder of Common Cause Magazine after she decided to investigate sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill. Her story, which featured allegations from ten women, was published and led to the first-ever Senate Ethics Committee investigation of sexual misconduct. The senator resigned, and the Congressional Landmark Accountability Act was passed. This act subjects Congress to the same discrimination laws as the rest of the nation. In this situation, not only was someone removed from the government, but a new law was created to help prevent this from happening again.

Though United States’ citizens are guaranteed freedom of the press, the country’s Freedom of the Press score as of 2017 is twenty-three out of one-hundred, zero being the most free. The country with the lowest score, eight, is Norway ("Freedom of the Press 2017", 2017). In Norway, journalists are not subject to censorship or political pressure. The media, in general, is also much more transparent with their audience due to lack of political pressure, unlike many media outlets in the United States. This keeps the society more informed, because less articles are leaning one way or the other.    

That is what the press is supposed to do: keep people informed and keep governments, businesses, and other organizations in check. Without the freedom of the press, people wouldn’t be informed on what’s going on in the world. People wouldn’t know who or what to support and vote for. Additionally, no other institution has the power to talk to key leaders, inspire social change, and uncover corruption, while analyzing and providing context for major global events.

Without freedom of the press, the United States would probably become a dictatorship due to awareness not being raised about government wrongdoings through journalism. At least, that is what has happened in other countries that restrict the press, such as North Korea, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan. Though the United States is not the most journalist friendly place in the world, it is still much more press friendly than many other countries. In a world where many people are denied being informed and speaking their mind, it is reassuring to know that the United States is a country where the people can say and call out whoever they want. Freedom of the press has helped shape political policy in this country, and will continue to do so for years to come.  

References

10 Most Censored Countries. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://cpj.org/reports/2006/05/10-most-censored-countries.php

ACME. (2017, April 28). Only 13% of world's population enjoys a free press – Freedom House report. Retrieved from https://acme-ug.org/2017/04/28/only-13-of-worlds-population-enjoys-a-free-press-freedom-house-report/

Britannica, T. E. (2018, July 20). Isaias Afwerki. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaias-Afwerki

Dews, F., & Young, T. (2017, March 16). Ten Noteworthy Moments In U.S. Investigative Journalism. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2014/10/20/ten-noteworthy-moments-in-u-s-investigative-journalism/

Dews, F., & Young, T. (2017, March 16). Ten Noteworthy Moments In U.S. Investigative Journalism. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2014/10/20/ten-noteworthy-moments-in-u-s-investigative-journalism/

Malk, B. Y. (2018, March 12). Maintaining Power by Breaking up Society: Eritrea Under Isaias Afwerki. Retrieved from https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/publications/ethics_online/maintaining-power-by-breaking-up-society-eritrea-under-isaias-afwerki

Nechepurenko, I. (2017, December 22). In a Year of Election Upsets, Uzbekistan Delivers the Expected. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/world/asia/uzbekistan-election-president.html

Photo, T., & Campbell, C. (2017, February 24). North Korea: A Family Tree of the Kim Dynasty. Retrieved from http://time.com/4681304/north-korea-kim-family-album/

Extra credit (1 point each):  What is your favorite winter holiday snack food? Cookie bars

 Name both the title and the author of the novel that is the basis for the movies “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049”? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick

Paige Weimer

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