Interest groups are important players in the American political system. They provide a venue in which interests and concerns of the people are conveyed to the government. Interest groups possess very specialized knowledge and represent many sides of an issue. Take the issue of gun control and the ongoing debate of allowing open carry handguns in Texas, for example. Groups, such as the National Rifle Authority (NRA), advocate for second amendment rights and support policies and representatives that aim to decrease regulations on gun control. On the other side, Moms Defend Action for Gun Safety in America and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence promote legislation and legislators that work to increase regulations on gun control.
These and the thousands of others interest groups provide expertise and subsidize the legislative activity of sympathetic lawmakers. Government officials deal with a broad range of issues but have limited resources in which to deal with them. Interest groups subsidize the legislative activity of elected representatives by providing research, drafting policy language, polling constituents from the legislator’s home district, donating to political campaigns, and more. Groups also sound the alarm, making elected officials aware of potentially problematic legislation or bureaucratic activity. Finally, groups can work against legislators who do not support their measures.
Groups on both sides work to ensure that their side wins. It is unclear, however, whether these groups accurately represent the interests of the public or if they promote their own agenda at the public’s expense. In the polarized political environment of the day, interest groups add another voice to the fray, dividing and encouraging animosity between us. While the resolution of the gun control debate is far from over in the United States, interest groups clamor for increasing power and influence.
Do you think the benefits interest groups provide outweigh their mischiefs?
- The Federalist No. 10, The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
- Mischiefs of Faction Blog
- Gun debate? What gun debate?
- Gun control in America: Lies, damned lies and statistics
- Texas weighs allowing open carry of handguns
- Open, Campus Carry Bills Pass Senate Panel