A Political Science Assessment of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

PSC 49 V2 CoverThe latest virtual issue of PS features articles written by alumni of the Congressional Fellowship Program (CFP) from 2010 to 2015. The CFP fellows serve yearlong placements in congressional and executive offices, and they chronicle their firsthand experiences in the pages of PS. Enjoy the full virtual issue here.

A Political Science Assessment of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

Kevin WozinakKevin H. Wozniak, University of Massachusetts, Boston

“On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza took the lives of 26 teachers and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In the wake of this tragic mass-shooting, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the leadership of the House Democratic Caucus convened a Gun Violence Prevention Task Force (GVPTF). This task force was charged to “explore the best available methods to address gun violence, to give stakeholders on all sides of [the] issue a voice in the debate, and to develop common sense principles to guide the U.S. House of Representatives as it works to answer important questions about reducing and preventing gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.” 1 After weeks of closed-door discussions; meetings with pertinent interest groups; and public hearings with panels of witnesses that included law enforcement officers, gun violence victims, criminologists, and hunters, the GVPTF released a document of fifteen principles designed to encapsulate the Democratic Party’s ideological stance on gun control and the Second Amendment, as well as its preferred legislative responses to the tragedy.

As a Congressional Fellow working for Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), one of the GVPTF’s vice chairs, I had a unique opportunity to watch the members of the Task Force work. In this article, I use a political science lens to reflect on my experience staffing Rep. Scott at GVPTF meetings and events. I believe that the choices made by the GVPTF, as well as the challenges it faced, reflect common themes from theories of Congress, including political messaging and agenda setting, tensions between party and constituency, tensions between policymaking goals and political realities, and inter-branch conflict under conditions of polarization…” Read More.

PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 47 / Issue 02 / April 2014, pp 550-552