U.S. History Media and Politics
Special interest groups will speak out in various ways for or against legislation or express opinions on court cases related to its focus issues. For example, the National Rifle Association, or NRA, took particular interest in the 2008 Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller. The NRA is an interest group that believes in responsible gun ownership for self-protection, hunting, and recreation.
Washington, D.C., had a ban on private handgun ownership, citing safety concerns in the busy city. In the D.C. v. Heller case, a group of people challenged the law as unconstitutional, and the NRA supported their position by submitting its opinion and rationale as a formal document to the court. The NRA used the language of the Constitution and different laws to justify its position, just as judges must do to decide a case.
The Supreme Court sided with Heller, striking down the ban. It is arguable how much of a role the NRA played in the case outcome, but the interest group definitely took action. Following the case, it filed lawsuits in other cities with similar bans. In this activity, you will research an interest group to determine what position it would take on a specific public policy or court decision and present the information in the form of an article or blog that could appear on the interest group’s website.
- Select an interest group and research its origins, policy positions, and membership. The following websites can help you find an interest group that focuses on an issue you care about:
- Consider whether the interest group would have supported a recent public policy change or court decision. You may use a law or program you have recently studied or search for one through newspapers, websites for Congress or your state legislature, or other Internet sites. You may find the Virtual Library, the Library of Congress–THOMAS, and Supreme Court websites helpful. You may find this Activity useful for how to conduct research.
Tip: Do not expect to find a direct link between the policy or court decision and your interest group, such as the NRA example above. You will most likely need to evaluate for yourself what the group’s position would be, based on what you learn about the interest group.
- Write an article that could appear as a blog entry on the interest group’s website. This is an expository piece of writing, so be sure to write in the third person (do not use “I think” or “I believe” or similar phrases with “I”). You may find it helpful to complete thisActivity on Expository Writing before you begin your article.
Make sure your article addresses:
- name and purpose of the interest group, and any key individuals
- origins of the interest group, including how it was formed and how it has grown or changed over time
- whether it has ties to political parties or other interest groups
- description of the specific policy or court decision
- rationale for the interest group’s position on the policy or court decision
- Cite the sources of your information in MLA Format. Include your sources with your article when you submit it to your instructor.
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