VPC Welcomes President
Bush's Reaffirmation of Campaign Pledge to Support Reauthorization of
Federal Assault Weapons Ban
WASHINGTON, DC� On
the eve of the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, President
Bush has kept his 2000 campaign promise and reaffirmed his support for
the federal ban on assault weapons, Knight Ridder news service reported
this past weekend. According to White House spokesperson Scott McClellan,
"The President supports the current law, and he supports reauthorization
of the current law." The federal assault weapons ban is scheduled to expire
on September 13, 2004. The NRA, one of Bush's strongest supporters during
the 2000 election, claimed credit for his electoral victory. The NRA is
vehemently opposed to the ban and has called for the law to not be renewed.
The NRA's annual meeting is April 25-27, 2003. Florida Governor Jeb Bush
is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the event.
Bush's support for
the ban has been longstanding. In October 2000, Bush spokesperson Ray
Sullivan told Salon magazine that he would expect then-candidate
Bush to reauthorize the ban. That position was reiterated by John Ashcroft
during his confirmation hearings on January 17, 2001, when he said, "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."
Like Bush, Ashcroft has been a strong ally of the NRA, which spent over
$500,000 on his behalf during his failed 2000 Senate bid. Just as importantly,
in his confirmation hearing testimony Ashcroft stated that the law was
not precluded by the Second Amendment. That determination by Ashcroft,
a strong adherent of the NRA's view of the Second Amendment, should remove
any discussion from the debate about the law's constitutionality. In fact,
no court challenge to the law has ever succeeded.
During the 2002 campaign
cycle, the NRA made ending the assault weapons ban a top priority. Just
this month, the Associated Press reported, "Federal NRA representatives
say the ban simply has not worked," and quoted NRA spokesperson Andrew
Arulanandan as stating, "The question is why should we keep ineffective
laws on the books....Undoubtedly, there will be a healthy debate on this."
VPC Public Policy
Director Joe Sudbay states, "Undoubtedly, the NRA's leadership did not
envision that the debate over the federal assault weapons ban would be
between the NRA and the White House�which they vowed to be working out
of if Bush won. We have long been concerned that Bush would choose the
NRA over public safety. This reaffirmation of the President's campaign
promise is a positive step in protecting the American public. We are equally
encouraged by Attorney General Ashcroft's view that the ban is constitutional.
Given the President's enormous prestige in his party, having the White
House on our side should help insure that the Republican House and Senate
will pass meaningful legislation to keep these weapons of war off our
streets. Unlike NRA head Wayne LaPierre, who apparently believes the President
is `somewhat irrelevant' to this debate, we look forward to working with
President Bush to reauthorize an effective law banning assault weapons.
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.
Monday, April 14, 2003
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x105