Pressure groups are groups that seek to influence public policy. In Britain, pressure group activity is seen to be a very crucial aspect of the democratic process as findings have shown that more people associate with a pressure group as opposed to a political party . It is no secret that gun violence in America has been a recurring political issue. Did you know that it is much easier to purchase a gun in America than it is to buy a car? This is because only 14 states in the country require a permit to own and purchase a firearm . One pressure group that is known to represent gun violence is the Brady Organization formerly known as the National Council to control handguns. The Brady Organization is a pressure group that seeks to influence public policy through creating a safer America by cutting down deaths that are caused by gun violence in half by 2025 . Firstly, this paper would analyse the effectiveness of the Brady Group by discussing how useful the website of the organization is and any potential improvements that could be made. Moreover, this essay would also utilise key theories to judge the overall effectiveness of the organization.
Nowadays, websites and social media in general almost seem to be a powerful influence in politics and hence before a pressure group's overall performance can be judged based on effectiveness, a well established website is crucial. In agreement with Gaby and Caren, social networking sites have been critical to linking potential supporters in order to share information and stories and this is evident through the website of the Brady Group.
The Brady Organization website is categorized under 4 main headings. Each heading displays unique information, however, the mission statement ‘cutting gun deaths in half by 2025' , is repeated as a sub-heading under each of the informational sections on the website. The use of repetition is to create emphasis on the objective of the organization and as this phrase is short but punchy, it is very easy for anyone on the website to remember it. Therefore, this alone illustrates how the technique of repetition is useful on the pressure group's website.
The first section, ‘About Brady', encompasses information about the organization. Under this heading, there is a section entitled, ‘Who We Are' and this sub-heading comprises of the mission statement explained in depth and the organizations unique approach that is in place to achieve their objectives. The Brady Organization unique approach is described as an “innovative and exciting strategy that centers on the idea of keeping guns out of the wrong hands through three impact-driven, broadly engaging campaigns” . The three campaigns listed are: 1) a policy focus to \"Finish the Job”, (2) to \"Stop \'Bad Apple\' Gun Dealers\" –and (3) to lead a new national conversation and change social norms around the real dangers of guns in the home . This section also has a video titled ‘Pathology of Gun violence', which primarily explains to the viewer that gun violence is a public health issue and thus requires a public health approach to fix. There is an annual report under this section that is downloadable and filled with lots of statistics. All this information is extremely useful to someone trying to find out about the organization. For instance, the use of quantitative data through statistics in the annual report suggests factual and objective information, which is very useful and persuasive in engaging with a reader on the website who doesn't know much about the topic.
However, one improvement that could be made to this section would be to shorten the lengthy video to a more concise one filled with more research similar to the one displayed on ‘The Law Centre for Gun Violence', (another gun violence pressure group) website. This is because although it has a great deal of information fitted into one video, it is less convincing due to the lack of research and expertise used in the video. The video on the Law Centre for gun Violence website, features experts and professionals in the field and thus makes it more useful as its more convincing.
The second informational section is ‘Gun violence' and this area covers topics about gun violence, gun violence statistics and background checks. This section is the most factual based section on the website and hence is useful for anyone looking to engage in the campaign as the statistics and facts are clearly presented.
The third section on the website covers Brady's solutions. This part explains Brady's solutions in three broad spectrums and they are: ‘Changing Culture', ‘Changing Laws' and ‘Changing the Gun Industry' . Beneath each of these headings are brief yet very informative slideshows. In addition, there is also a ‘related content' section on each of these pages. This feature mainly comprises of several blog posts (in the order of most recent to least recent). The ‘related content' feature does not only present blog posts but also ‘success stories' and ‘lawsuits' . Therefore, with such extensive features and tools, the Brady website is very useful to readers because the wide array of material encourages one to read more about the organization's solutions and in turn, participate in the movement.
The final informational section on the website explains what the reader can do to help. There are two forms under this section: ‘Get Brady Email Updates' and ‘Volunteer and Cut Gun Deaths'. This is useful as these forms give the reader the opportunity to fill out contact information so relevant information can reach them faster. Moreover, there are other sections titled ‘Donor Advised Fund', ‘Donate Via PayPal', ‘Amazon Smile' or ‘Donate by Mail' . The wide range of options presents something for people of all age groups. For instance, as the elderly are not the most technology savvy, they could contribute through mail donations or crowd rise (a way of fundraising). Thus this is useful as there is engagement with all kinds of readers.
Besides content, the overall design also contributes to its usefulness. Firstly, the website uses only two colours throughout which is useful as the reader can concentrate on the content. However, a third colour is used as the font colour for the donate tab. This contrast immediately draws the reader's attention to this section and hence pursues the reader to click on it. In addition, the heading of this section is a hashtag (‘♯ENOUGH'), which is in a different font to all the other headings. As hashtags are displayed all over social media, the use of it in this case is very relevant as it shows that the website design is keeping up with the current trends.
On the other hand, one improvement that could be made to the website would be to display their various social media accounts on the home page. For instance, on The Law Centre to prevent Gun Violence website, their Facebook and Twitter username is on the top right corner of the page next to the search tab. However there is nothing similar on the Brady website and so currently, the website seems to be lacking engagement with young people/teenagers through social media.
Lastly, the design of the Brady website could also be improved by using a different combination of colours on the website instead of the boring blue and white colours. On National Gun Violence day, gun control pressure groups and organizations inform the public to wear orange in solidarity to stop gun violence as orange is seen to symbolize peace. It is interesting and effective to see that the pressure group ‘Law Centre to prevent Gun Violence', utilise orange and grey across their website. This is very effective and useful as it brings reference to gun control and peace immediately to the reader.
This section of the essay will discuss the effectiveness of Brady and the methodological limitations that arise when measuring the effectiveness of a pressure group.
First and foremost, it is important to mention that, there is a typology of factors that is closely linked to the effectiveness of pressure groups. This typology is divided into three main categories and they are: features of the proximate environment of the pressure group, the resources available to the pressure group and last but not least, features of the external economic and political environment . This typology proposed by Grant, would be applied to the Brady organization to assess how effective it is.
The Brady organization would be effective in managing their proximate environment if they are able to reduce the competition between similar pressure groups for members and sponsorship . In a 2004 interview, the president of Brady at the time reported that the organization had half a million members supporting its movement. However, it turned out that the pressure group had just over 50,000 followers . On the other hand, it was published that the National Riffle Association (NRA) for short, had approximately 4.3 million followers , and thus it is fair to say that the Brady group is less effective than the NRA in achieving members. In addition, the NRA has a strategy where free memberships are given and hence this has led to an increase in the number of members and followers they have. Therefore one way by which Brady could reduce this competition would be to develop a better promotional mix through adopting a marketing strategy that provides incentives to potential members. This in turn would result in the group possibly gaining more members and in turn becoming more effective. The Brady group's effectiveness could also be assessed through ‘the characteristics of the potential membership being organized or represented' . A pressure group is effective and credible if it is able to organize a large proportion of eligible members as possible . This means that the group represents a wide section of people and thus the membership population is not underrepresented. In this light, it is fair to say that the Brady group is effective. This is because of evidence that portrays the group as having various characteristics of members. With reference to one of the newsletters on the official website of the group, 2015 was the first time, Charleston families and leaders joined the Brady campaign at a press conference to expand Brady background checks to thousands of gun sales . This was following the mass shooting that took place around that time of the year in one of the oldest churches in the South. So, as the group was able to get support from families of victims and people generally affected by the incident, this shows that the Brady Organization is effective because of a wide representation of members.
Secondly, another way of assessing the effectiveness of a pressure group is by looking closely at the availability of resources the group has. These resources take different forms; some of which include: staffing resources, financial resources, marketing skills in terms of the attraction and retention of members and choices of strategy . Two of these sub-categories would be explored in line with the Brady group to assess how effective the group is. Firstly, staffing resources. According to Grant, there are different groups of staff members that have different functional activities. For example, there is the typical council and the executive committee. The role of the council is to make the key decisions specifically in situations where significant sections of the membership are offended by a policy proposal whereas the executive committee deals with the overall strategy of the organization . Therefore, a pressure group is effective if these two types of staff coexist in the organization. This is present in the Brady group, thus the organization is effective. The organization's staffs consists of a president, a chief operating officer, a national field director and a director of finance. These four roles can be said to form the typical council of the group. In addition, the group then also has a chief strategy officer, a chief legal officer, a director communications and marketing and finally a director of legal action project. These employees form the executive of the organization as they all help to shape the strategic focus and direction of Brady\'s campaigns . As this is in line with expectations of the theory being used to assess the effectiveness of the group, this demonstrates that the Brady group is an effective pressure group with regards to availability of resources. The second sub-category to be discussed is the financial resources available. Grant describes financial resources as vital to pressure group effectiveness because if the group is going to attempt to influence the content of any legislation it will require a large amount of money to pay its staff a decent salary . Also it is highlighted that financial resources are pivotal to the long-term success of a pressure group. The Brady Campaign is known to receive money from contributions, events, investments, government grants, donated services and other incomes. These financial resources are then spent on education, legal action, legislation, membership services, fund raising and management . As the group receives cash inflow from a wide range of sources, this indicates that the group has adequate financial resources. It is also demonstrated that part of the financial resources goes towards management, which is to suggest that the team and board of directors are greatly satisfied financially. Therefore as this is evidence in support of Grant's theory on financial resources, it shows that the pressure group is effective.
The third and final category of this typology is the features of the external economic and political environment that can be seen in the pressure group. Some of these features include: public opinion and attitudes, the political party in office and sponsorship or support by a government department and/or opposition government departments . As perfectly said by Richard Rose, ‘the likelihood of any group gaining wide support for its demands depends upon the congruence between group demands and the values, beliefs, and emotions widely diffused in the culture' . It is known that the Brady campaign strongly supports the Democrats in all elections simply because they are pro gun control. For instance, in 2009, Obama enforced a law making it illegal to carry loaded guns in national parks . In relation to the first category of the third typology, the Brady campaign responds to public opinions and attitudes and thus can be described as effective. An exemplification of this is that the group is a proud supporter of the Million Mom March campaign. The MMM was a movement that began in 1999 following the shooting in Granada Hills in California. It is noted on the Brady website that more than 750,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. on Mother's Day, May 14th, 2000 . It is also known that in 2001, the MMM united with Handgun Control Inc. and the Centre to prevent Gun violence to form the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center . This shows the effectiveness of the group in terms of taking into consideration public attitudes and opinions for social change. Another way that this shows the pressure group is effective is because internal group structures are considered in the decision making process to form one powerful campaign and movement.
Overall the many successes of this group are the most important factors that highlight its effectiveness. For instance the victory in Washington where there is a decrease in the percentage of people killed by partners with handguns as a result of the law passed to expand background checks to all gun sales is a testament of this. Secondly, the president of the Brady Campaign responded to the surgeon general victory by saying ‘this is a huge victory for Brady and for the public health and safety of our nation. Now we have a Surgeon General who recognizes that gun violence is a serious public health issue that America urgently needs to address' . These and many other successes demonstrate that the group is effective in what it does.
However it is important to note that measuring the effectiveness of a pressure group is a difficult assessment to make due to methodological limitations. This is because according to Grant, one has to look at policy outcomes when the effectiveness of a pressure group is being analyzed. This is particularly difficult to do because of the influence of a causational effect that is bound to occur. For instance in his words, ‘If other key actors think that a group is effective, more heed may be taken of its views, creating a virtuous cycle for the group' . Moreover, it is easier to distinguish groups that are ineffective than those that are effective. This is because it would be much easier to spot clear unsuccessful strategies rather than the influence an effective pressure group has had on ‘policy outcomes' .
To conclude, the Brady campaign has a website that has detailed and useful content for the reader. However, this essay suggested a few ways by which the design of the website could be improved. This is because it is noticed that a pressure's group website is one of the most important tools in contributing to the overall effectiveness of the group and its performance on a large scale.
Furthermore, when the success stories of this pressure group is paid great attention, it is evident that the Brady Campaign is very successful and on a good track in reaching its objectives set for 2025. It is also important to highlight that by assessing the group's effectiveness by using Grants typology factors, it is clear more or less that the Brady Campaign is an effective pressure group nationally and even internationally. However, despite all the above i.e. the coherent and useful website and the successes achieved by the organization, this paper indicates that it is generally difficult to measure the effectiveness of the Brady group and any pressure group in general. And this is because of the methodological limitations that arise in the process.
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