Attorney General John
Ashcroft Reverses Bush Administration Position on Renewing Federal Ban
on Assault Weapons
Ban Will End in
September 2004 Without Congressional Action
General John Ashcroft, in testimony before Congress yesterday, for the
first time refused to offer support for re-authorizing the federal ban
on assault weapons. Ashcroft's comments before the Senate Judiciary Committee
represent an apparent reversal of Bush Administration policy as well as
Ashcroft's prior statements before the committee.
During his January
2001 confirmation hearing, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked
Ashcroft if he would support re-authorizing the law when it sunsets in
September 2004. Ashcroft's answer was unequivocal, "It is my understanding
that the president-elect of the United States has indicated his clear
support for extending the assault weapon ban, and I would be pleased to
move forward that position, and to support that as a policy of this president,
and as a policy of the Justice Department."
There was no such
clarity yesterday, as detailed in news reports, when Ashcroft failed to
renew his prior commitment on the part of the Administration. The Attorney
General, under repeated questioning, for the first time refused to state
that the Administration would support renewing the law. Yet just last
week the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the White House
supported extending the ban. Ashcroft's refusal to voice support for renewal
of the ban represents a dramatic shift in the Administration's position.
VPC Public Policy
Director Joe Sudbay states, "Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Bush
Administration have, once again, placed the deadly agenda of the National
Rifle Association and the gun industry over the safety of the American
public and law enforcement. Terrorist training manuals seized in Afghanistan
have made clear that America's enemies recognize the nexus between our
nation's weak gun laws and potential terrorist attacks. That the Attorney
General would reveal this change in policy at a Congressional hearing
on homeland security only illustrates the depth of the Bush Administration's
fealty to the NRA." The NRA has made termination of the ban a priority.
During his failed 2000 Senate campaign, Ashcroft was the beneficiary of
more than $500,000 in NRA spending.
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.
Wednesday, March 5, 2003
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x105