Applying the Narrative Policy Framework to Federal Gun Control Policy: H.R. 1808/S. 736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021/2022 Essay


Applying the Narrative Policy Framework to Federal Gun Control Policy: H.R. 1808/S. 736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021/2022 Essay

Americans lead the world in civilian gun ownership, with a ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 citizens (Karp, 2018, p.4). Concomitantly, they endure the most mass shootings by single perpetrators of any developed nation (Lankford, 2019). Against this backdrop of violence, the politics of gun policy is characterized by gun control groups fighting for stronger regulations, and gun rights groups defending their Constitutional right to bear arms. Interest groups from both sides construct narratives that frame how the public and policymakers understand gun violence. More importantly, these narratives direct the public and like-minded policymakers toward specific policy solutions.  Using the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF), this paper explores how the policy stories of gun control advocates effectively framed H.R.1808/S.736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021/2022 as a possible federal policy solution to mass shootings in the United States. Applying the Narrative Policy Framework to Federal Gun Control Policy: H.R. 1808/S. 736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021/2022 Essay

Narrative Policy Framework

The NPF assumes that stories are central to our ability to make sense of complex events and processes, including policymaking. Advocacy groups develop policy narratives about a problem to influence public perception and legislators’ policy preferences (Porche, 2023).  The policy narratives are defined by three structural elements: a setting (context); characters (villains, heroes, and/or victims); and, a moral to the story (the policy solution) (Shanahan et al., 2018, p. 176). The effectiveness of policy narratives depends on their ability to emotionally connect with the public and direct legislators toward preferred policy solutions. Gun control advocates, specifically the Brady Campaign and the Campaign Against Assault Weapons (CAAW), successfully developed a policy narrative that garnered support from over 340 organizations nationally and persuaded federal legislators in the House and Senate to put H.R.1808/S.736 on the 117th Congressional agenda (Brady United, 2019; CAAW, n.d.).

H.R. 1808/S. 736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021

…              H.R.1808/S.736 makes it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon or large-capacity ammunition feeding device. The Brady Campaign and CAAW created a policy narrative that is consistent with the aforenamed NPF structural elements. First, they established the context that banning assault weapons was not new. In 1993, Congress enacted an assault weapon ban as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed (CAAW, n.d.).  Second, they identified the subsequent victims, emphasizing mass shootings of suburban school children and teachers (Merry, 2018). In the decade after the ban expired, over 300 people were shot and killed in 34 mass shootings, representing a 183% increase in massacres and a 239% increase in fatalities (Brady, 2019).  Finally, they offered a policy solution: To protect our schools and our children, return to and strengthen the ban on selling assault weapons in the United States via H.R.1808/S.736. The House has already approved the bill, which is currently pending in the Senate Applying the Narrative Policy Framework to Federal Gun Control Policy: H.R. 1808/S. 736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021/2022 Essay.

Conclusion

Narratives—stories— can be very influential in setting the legislative policy agenda at the federal level. This paper explored the success of the narrative of gun control advocates in getting a proposal to ban the sale of assault weapons onto the federal legislative agenda in the 117th Congressional session. The House has approved H.R. 1808, but the Senate companion bill, S.736, has not come to a floor vote. It remains to be seen how influential the narrative will be in the Senate for the proposed bill to be presented to the president for final approval and enactment.

 

References

Brady United. (2019). About Brady. https://www.bradyunited.org/about

Campaign Against Assault Weapons (n.d.). I say No to weapons of war. Retrieved from

https://www.newtownactionalliance.org/campaign-against-assault-weapons

Karp, A. (2018). Briefing paper: Estimating global civilian-held firearms numbers. Small Arms           Survey. https://www.smallarmssurvey.org/sites/default/files/resources/SAS-BP-Civilian-    Firearms-Numbers.pdf

Lankford, A. (2019). Confirmation that the United States has six times its global share of public

mass shooters, courtesy of Lott and Moody’s data. Econ Journal Watch, 16(1).69-83.

Merry, M. (2018). Narrative strategies in the gun policy debate: Exploring proximity and social          construction. Policy Studies Journal, 46(4), 373-395.

Porche, D.J. (2023). Health policy: Applications for nurses and other healthcare professionals         (3rd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Shanahan, E., Jones, M., McBeth, M., & Radaelli, C. (2018). The Narrative Policy Framework. In C. Weible and P. Sabatier (Eds.), Theories of the policy process (4th ed., pp.173-213).            Westview Press.

Applying the Narrative Policy Framework to Federal Gun Control Policy: H.R. 1808/S. 736- Assault Weapons Ban of 2021/2022 Essay

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