VPC Releases John Ashcroft:
Study Details Attorney
General's Attacks on Brady Law, Refusal to Allow Law Enforcement Access
to Gun Sale Records for the War on Terror, and Promotion of An Individual
Right to Keep and Bear Arms
WASHINGTON, DC�A new
report from the Violence Policy Center (VPC), John
Ashcroft: Year One, released for the one-year anniversary of John
Ashcroft's appointment as Attorney General, confirms what the VPC warned
during debate over his nomination: The Justice Department under John Ashcroft
has become an aggressive gun-lobby policy machine. The actions of the
Attorney General�on whose behalf the National Rifle Association (NRA)
spent $374,137 during his failed 2000 Senate reelection bid�have undermined
the Brady Law, denied law enforcement personnel access to databases to
help fight terrorism, and undermined gun prosecutions. Pro-gun policy
shifts detailed in the report include:
The Gun Lobby Exception
to the War on Terror: The Justice Department refused to allow the
FBI access to the audit log of the National Instant Criminal Background
Check System (NICS)�the federal system overseen by the FBI which is utilized
by gun dealers to conduct background checks under the Brady Law�to determine
whether suspected terrorists had purchased guns.
Effectiveness of the NICS: Attorney General Ashcroft unlawfully suspended
a Clinton Administration rule that would have permitted the FBI to keep
records of approved gun sales for 90 days so that the system could be
audited to uncover fraudulent gun purchases and abuses of the system.
He then proposed a new rule requiring virtually instant destruction of
of Gun Laws by Misinterpreting the Constitution: In May 2000, Attorney
General Ashcroft sent a letter on Department stationery to the NRA's chief
lobbyist detailing his belief in an individual right to keep and bear
arms. The letter flatly contradicts Supreme Court precedent and more than
65 years of Justice Department policy and was filed in opposition to the
Department's position in U.S. v. Emerson. It is expected that other
gun defendants will follow this lead. In addition, a memo was later issued
from Washington directing all 93 U.S. Attorney's offices to submit any
cases dealing with the Second Amendment to Justice Department headquarters
In January 2001, the
VPC released John Ashcroft: The Wrong
Choice To Enforce America's Gun Laws and was the first gun control
organization to oppose his nomination. Soon after, the VPC launched ashcroftgunwatch.org,
the leading source of information on the Attorney General's pro-gun activities.
Many of the concerns the VPC voiced over the Ashcroft nomination have
come to fruition.
"At his confirmation
hearing, Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would not
let his personal views on guns stand in the way of carrying out the responsibilities
of his position," VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew
Nosanchuk stated. "Many Senators took him at his word. Now we know that
the opposite is true: the Attorney General will not allow the responsibilities
of his position to interfere with his efforts to advance the special interests
of the gun lobby."
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.