WASHINGTON, DC�Today the U.S. Supreme Court handed a major defeat to
the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the organization's ongoing attack
on the federal Brady Law. The Supreme Court declined to hear the NRA's
appeal of a decision by the federal court of appeals in the District of
Columbia which upheld the legality of a Justice Department regulation
implementing the Brady Law's National Instant Criminal Background Check
System (NICS) for firearm purchases. The regulation gives the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the ability to combat abuse of the system
by conducting periodic security audits of electronic records in NICS.
Such audits ensure that NICS is not being defrauded in ways that allow
felons, fugitives, and other prohibited persons to obtain firearms.
"The Supreme Court's action makes it clear that the NICS audit log is
legal. And while the Ashcroft Justice Department defended the audit log
in court, the Attorney General is now working to undermine the system
through the regulatory process," said Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation
director and legislative counsel.
On June 4, 2001, the VPC sued Ashcroft in federal district court in Washington,
DC for illegally suspending the final Justice Department regulation implementing
a 90-day retention period for information on approved firearms transfers
in the NICS audit log. The regulation that Ashcroft suspended is an updated
version of the one that the Supreme Court declined to review today. The
VPC today filed an amended complaint adding two individual plaintiffs
who have been injured by Ashcroft's unlawful delay of the NICS regulation.
Tomorrow, the VPC will file a motion asking the court to decide the legal
issues in the case in its favor.
In suspending the regulation, Ashcroft cited the need for further "study"
of the regulation due to privacy concerns. However, Ashcroft's own lawyers
opposed the NRA's court petition, arguing that the "Attorney General's
audit log regulations�which require both temporary retention of certain
information for a brief period and the information's complete destruction
after that period�are consistent with the Brady Act."
Adds Nosanchuk, "Ashcroft's Justice Department is speaking out of both
sides of its mouth�defending the legitimacy of the audit log in the Supreme
Court, while at the same time undermining it by suspending the final NICS
rule that would make the 90-day retention period permanent."
The Violence Policy Center is represented in its suit by Virginia A.
Seitz from the Washington, DC office of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood.
Last month the VPC launched www.ashcroftgunwatch.org,
the leading source of ongoing information on Ashcroft, his pro-gun activities
and gun lobby ties, as well as his enforcement of current gun laws.