Violence Policy Center Response to Justice Department Proposal to Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Prohibited Aliens

For Release:  Wednesday, February 13, 2002

In response to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s proposal to keep guns out of the hands of prohibited aliens announced today, the Violence Policy Center released the following statement by VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk.

The Attorney General’s actions today show that his first priority is not keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, and other prohibited purchasers, but in fact speeding up gun sales. Ensuring that guns are kept out of the hands of illegal aliens, felons, fugitives, and others in prohibited categories has clearly taken a back seat to the gun lobby’s announced goal of making the Brady Law “instant check” truly instant. This is being implemented at the expense of public safety.

In December there was a public firestorm when it was revealed that Attorney General Ashcroft was prohibiting the FBI from checking records of approved gun purchases to determine whether terrorists had bought guns. Two months later, Attorney General Ashcroft has yet to voice support for any initiatives that would address the problem. Today, the Attorney General takes a new tack, and attempts to change the subject. The proposed improvements regarding the availability of INS records for NICS checks will clearly be undercut by the Department’s continued refusal to allow the FBI to check the records of approved purchases to see if a potential terrorist has bought a gun.

Just as important, enough time should be allowed to ensure that a background check is thorough and complete, yet the Attorney General has directed the FBI to actually speed up the time in which background checks are conducted, so that 90 percent are completed “immediately.” This is a clear example of the Justice Department carrying out the will of the National Rifle Association, placing the political and monetary interests of the gun lobby and the gun industry over public safety.

The bottom line: What the Attorney General appears to give with one hand, he takes away with the other.




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