WASHINGTON, DC�The Bush gun violence plan released today focuses almost
solely on prosecution, ignoring the wide range of proven strategies�from
point of manufacture to end use�that can be employed to reduce firearms
death and injury. President Bush's after- the-fact approach deals almost
exclusively with the end product of gun violence�prosecuting offenders
after the shots have been fired and the victims injured or killed. By
doing so, President Bush refuses to acknowledge the significant roles
prevention and thorough front-end enforcement can play. The Bush plan
offers nothing to ensure that guns are not obtained by felons and other
prohibited persons in the first place.
The prosecution-only approach adopted by Bush is a political, not public
safety, strategy. It was created by the National Rifle Association (NRA)
and its lineage can be traced back to the NRA's much-hyped Project Exile
initiative. Recognizing Bush's close ties to the gun lobby, it is probably
no coincidence that this plan was offered the same week the NRA begins
its annual convention.
The Bush Administration is sidestepping an important opportunity to enact
a true enforcement mechanism�expand the Brady background check beyond
licensed dealers to include all gun purchases. The secondary market of
individual, private sales allows felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited
persons to buy guns without background checks. Gun shows offer one example
of the abuse of this loophole, although the Internet and newspaper classified
ads also contribute. While the Bush proposal provides a small amount of
funding to improve records, such records are accessed only for background
checks by licensed dealers.
President Bush should also be aware that his federal prosecution-only
approach may be on shaky legal ground. A Federal District Court in Philadelphia,
site of the President's press conference today, raised doubts about the
jurisdiction of federal courts in felon-in-possession cases which the
Court viewed as out of step with modern Commerce Clause jurisdiction.
Ironically, the Court based its determination on United States v. Lopez,
514 U.S. 549 (1995), the gun-lobby backed case which overturned the Gun-Free
School Zone Act. The court found that possession of a firearm is not a
commercial activity, a requirement of other Commerce Clause cases.
Last year, the NRA promised that if George W. Bush won the election,
they'd be operating out of the White House. Today's announcement is just
the latest proof that this brazen statement was not an idle boast.