Bush After-The-Fact, NRA-Backed Prosecution Strategy Does Nothing to Prevent Gun Death and Injury

For Release:  Monday, May 14, 2001

Last year, the NRA promised that if George W. Bush won the election, they’d be operating out of the White House. Today’s announcement is just the latest proof that this brazen statement was not an idle boast.

WASHINGTON, DC -The Bush gun violence plan released today focuses almost solely on prosecution, ignoring the wide range of proven strategies from point of manufacture to end use that can be employed to reduce firearms death and injury. President Bush’s after- the-fact approach deals almost exclusively with the end product of gun violence prosecuting offenders after the shots have been fired and the victims injured or killed. By doing so, President Bush refuses to acknowledge the significant roles prevention and thorough front-end enforcement can play. The Bush plan offers nothing to ensure that guns are not obtained by felons and other prohibited persons in the first place.

The prosecution-only approach adopted by Bush is a political, not public safety, strategy. It was created by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its lineage can be traced back to the NRA’s much-hyped Project Exile initiative. Recognizing Bush’s close ties to the gun lobby, it is probably no coincidence that this plan was offered the same week the NRA begins its annual convention.

The Bush Administration is sidestepping an important opportunity to enact a true enforcement mechanism – expand the Brady background check beyond licensed dealers to include all gun purchases. The secondary market of individual, private sales allows felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited persons to buy guns without background checks. Gun shows offer one example of the abuse of this loophole, although the Internet and newspaper classified ads also contribute. While the Bush proposal provides a small amount of funding to improve records, such records are accessed only for background checks by licensed dealers.

President Bush should also be aware that his federal prosecution-only approach may be on shaky legal ground. A Federal District Court in Philadelphia, site of the President’s press conference today, raised doubts about the jurisdiction of federal courts in felon-in-possession cases which the Court viewed as out of step with modern Commerce Clause jurisdiction. Ironically, the Court based its determination on United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), the gun-lobby backed case which overturned the Gun-Free School Zone Act. The court found that possession of a firearm is not a commercial activity, a requirement of other Commerce Clause cases.

Last year, the NRA promised that if George W. Bush won the election, they’d be operating out of the White House. Today’s announcement is just the latest proof that this brazen statement was not an idle boast.

 

 

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