WASHINGTON, DC�The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today charged that U.S.
Attorney General John Ashcroft's 180-degree shift in Department of Justice
(DOJ) gun policy sends a clear message: while he is reinforcing his relationship
with the National Rifle Association (NRA), he is not enforcing the gun
"By running roughshod over established DOJ policies and legal precedent,
and working hand-in-hand with the NRA, Attorney General Ashcroft has turned
the DOJ into a virtual NRA franchise," states Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation
director and legislative counsel, "Ashcroft's letter to the NRA touting
his pro-gun Second Amendment views, coupled with his illegal delay of
a final Justice Department rule implementing a key part of the Brady Law's
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for firearm purchases,
strongly suggest that his NRA membership supercedes his duties as Attorney
General. The VPC was the first gun control group to oppose Ashcroft's
nomination because of our serious concerns regarding his commitment to
enforcing our nation's gun laws. With these latest actions, Ashcroft has
clearly demonstrated that our worst fears are coming true."
In his letter to the NRA, sent just in time for distribution by the organization
at its annual convention, Ashcroft detailed a position on the Second Amendment
in direct conflict with longstanding legal precedent, historical research,
and established U.S. Justice Department policy. His position raises serious
questions as to whether Ashcroft will follow through on his confirmation-hearing
promises to defend federal gun laws from spurious pro-gun legal challenges.
Ashcroft has also twice suspended implementation of a Brady Law regulation
that would ensure that the FBI can retain records of firearm sales for
90 days to prevent fraud and abuse of the NICS.
In a lawsuit filed June 4, 2001, the VPC alleges that Ashcroft�relying
on the Bush Administration's policy of summarily delaying final regulations
from the previous Administration�violated the Administrative Procedure
Act, the principal federal law that gives all interested parties the right
to participate in the regulatory process. Ashcroft stopped the Final Rule
from going into effect without allowing the public its right to notice
and comment by summarily delaying the rule twice for 60 days. Recently,
the NRA's top lobbyist boasted that Ashcroft is conducting a "top-to-bottom"
review of the NICS. The VPC's suit seeks to require Ashcroft to take immediate
steps to implement the NICS Final Rule.
"We are hopeful that with today's hearing the House Judiciary Committee
will begin exercising meaningful oversight over the questionable activities
of the Attorney General," adds Nosanchuk.