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Shot Full of Holes

Deconstructing John Ashcroft's Second Amendment


Not only has the source material in Attorney General Ashcroft's letter been manipulated and taken out of context, ironically, much of it appears to have been lifted wholesale from the historical discussion in the very Emerson decision that the Justice Department has appealed.76 Most of the historical quotes that Ashcroft uses in his letter are identical to those that the judge in Emerson relied on to craft his expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Attorney General of the United States is laying out what he describes as his own personal understanding of the Second Amendment, and he does this through an appeal to materials used in a court decision which rules against the Department of Justice's official position on the Second Amendment, and which the Department has appealed. In other words, Attorney General Ashcroft is presenting in an official letter his personal point of view, which directly conflicts with the duties of his official capacity as Attorney General, by borrowing liberally from a decision he is supposed to be working to have overturned. It says a great deal about both the trial court's decision in Emerson and the Ashcroft letter that both misrepresent the historical evidence and either omit or mischaracterize existing precedents. Such a situation is, at best, confusing and, at worst, destructive to the Department's litigating position. His letter has served as a rallying cry for the National Rifle Association and a warning sign for gun control advocates. In the meantime, the Justice Department's reputation is being tarnished. Most importantly, if brought to their natural conclusion, Attorney General Ashcroft's efforts to change the Department's position on the Second Amendment will have dangerous real-world implications that will be measured in increased death and injury from firearms.

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  1. Emerson, 46 F. Supp. 2d at 601-608.



 All contents � 2001 Violence Policy Center


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.