The first step in the policymaking process is the identification of a problem. While many problems exist in society today, only those for which people desire government action can lead to public policies. Furthermore, Professor Aaron Wildavsky has observed, “A problem is a problem only if something can be done about it”. With this in mind, interest groups work to bring about government action on their pet issues and often have specific proposals for legislation (the “something” to be done about the perceived problem). However, for particularly controversial issues, how the “problem” is defined by various interest groups can vary significantly. Anderson points out that when there is disagreement over the definition of a problem or the remedies for it, the likelihood of action is reduced.
Choose one of the controversial issues below and examine how different interest groups define the problem. How do the groups define the problem? Are the definitions different? What remedies does each group propose? Do the groups disagree over the correct remedy for the problem, and if so, how? Has the disagreement of the groups prevented the government from instituting policies in the subject area? If you were a policymaker, what kind of policy would you try to enact after hearing each side, and why?
Here is the issue I have chosen:
The website for the National Rifle Association, the largest gun owners’ interest group in the US.
The website for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the leading gun-control groups.
This ought to be good.