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The Second Amendment is bitterly contested in modern America. Does the amendment recognize an individual right to own guns for sport and self-defense or a collective right, exercised through a militia, or citizen guard, to possess firearms for defending the nation? The framers clearly believed the right was important, but what they meant by it has become a source of deep division.

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A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

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The Urban Institute says it is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization” focusing on “the social, economic, and governance problems facing the nation.” It has its roots in the Great Society era of government anti-poverty programs. The institute was chartered by a blue-ribbon commission assembled by President Lyndon Johnson to examine problems and issues faced by the nation’s urban populations.

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National Rifle Association, one of the nation’s oldest advocacy groups, was formed in 1871 to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” Since that time, the NRA has evolved into the largest gun-rights lobbying organization in the United States.

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The Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s best-known think tanks on the right, says its mission is to “formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

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According to its website, FactCheck.org is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” Its staff monitors factual accuracy in American politics, looking at what’s being said in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and the like.

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The Consumer Federation of America, formed in 1968, acts on behalf of consumers through “advocacy, research, education, and service.” The group has 300 member organizations – all nonprofit, pro-consumer groups.

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The Library of Congress houses the Congressional Research Service, “the public policy research arm of the United States Congress.” The CRS performs independent, nonpartisan and objective research for members of Congress and their staffs on a nearly endless array of issues. The Librarian of Congress appoints the director of the service, which has a large, knowledgeable staff and receives a sizable budget.

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Founded in 2003 by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, the Center for American Progress describes itself as “progressive.” Many of its experts once worked in Democratic presidential administrations or for Democrats on Capitol Hill. According to its website, the center seeks to “combine bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate, expose the hollowness of conservative governing philosophy, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter.”

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The Cato Institute describes its work as broadening public-policy debate on “individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” For the last decade, Cato has supported Social Security reform through private accounts and championed deregulation of the drug industry. Cato was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, a chartered financial analyst and former vice president of Alliance Capital Management Group. Most of Cato’s funding comes from private foundations and individuals, with only a small amount from corporations.

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The Bureau of Justice Statistics is a data collection arm of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs. Founded in 1979, the bureau collects and analyzes statistics related to the nation’s justice system.

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The Brady Campaign describes itself as “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence.” The group is really two organizations: The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and The Brady Campaign. The Campaign lobbies on gun laws and gets involved in politics to help elect candidates who share its views. The Center focuses more on using the court system to achieve its goals and represents victims of gun violence and others.

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This independent, nonprofit website lays out the arguments on both sides of a host of controversial issues. Its mission statement: “We promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship.”

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Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization that’s a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts, calls itself a “fact tank.” It conducts public opinion polling and social science research, and publishes reports and information on various issues through seven distinct projects.

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A bipartisan organization for state, commonwealth and territorial legislators and their staffs, the National Conference of State Legislatures “provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.” The organization advocates the interests of state governments.