For Release: Friday, June 29, 2001
Legislation Needed to Enable Law Enforcement to Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Criminals
WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Violence Policy Center (VPC) endorsed a proposal by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to require the Justice Department to keep records on approved gun purchases for a minimum of 90 days. Senator Schumer’s proposal is in response to Attorney General Ashcroft’s announcement of a 180-degree shift in Justice Department policy on the use of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) audit log.
“Senator Schumer’s bill will undo the serious damage that the Ashcroft Justice Department inflicted on the Brady Law yesterday,” said Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation director and legislative counsel. “Without audits that allow the FBI to keep records of approved sales for at least 90 days, felons, wife beaters and the mentally disturbed will have increased access to firearms.”
The FBI and other law enforcement officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of an audit log of approved transactions to identify bad-apple dealers and criminals who misuse and abuse the system. Just this month Justice Department lawyers filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court opposing immediate destruction of the records. In the brief, Ashcroft’s Justice Department lawyers stated that there was a “particularly great” need to conduct audits “given the confidential and valuable information the system provides.” This brief was filed in opposition to the NRA’s appeal seeking immediate destruction of records. The Supreme Court put an end to the NRA’s legal maneuvering by refusing to take the case.
“What the NRA was unable to get from the courts, Attorney General Ashcroft handed to the gun lobby on a silver platter,” said Nosanchuk. “His action shows that he’s putting the interests of the NRA ahead of the needs of law enforcement. That is why Senator Schumer’s bill is so important, because it puts the Justice Department’s priorities back where they should be.”
Last month the VPC launched www.ashcroftgunwatch.org, the leading source of ongoing information on Ashcroft, his pro-gun activities and gun lobby ties, as well as his enforcement of current gun laws.