For Release: Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Violence Policy Center Releases New Study Shot Full of Holes: Deconstructing John Ashcroft’s Second Amendment
WASHINGTON, DC The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released Shot Full of Holes: Deconstructing John Ashcroft’s Second Amendment at a Capitol Hill news conference. Scheduled to join the VPC were Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee member and former law professor.
The new 38-page VPC study exposes Attorney General John Ashcroft’s recent letter on the Second Amendment to the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a shoddy piece of legal and historical research that completely fails to support its radical conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an expansive individual right to keep and bear arms. Distributed at the NRA’s Annual Meeting this May, the letter details a position on the Second Amendment that directly conflicts with longstanding legal precedent, historical research, and established U.S. Justice Department policy but fully comports with the NRA’s distorted views. A portrait of Ashcroft is featured on the July 2001 cover of the NRA’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom.
VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk states, “Attorney General Ashcroft’s letter to the NRA represents a 180-degree shift in Justice Department policy regarding the Second Amendment dating back more than 65 years. While his letter sets forth a position in conflict with United States v. Miller the U.S. Supreme Court’s binding interpretation of the Second Amendment the letter never mentions the case. This is tantamount to arguing against desegregation and ignoring Brown v. Board of Education, or opposing a woman’s right to choose and omitting any reference to Roe v. Wade. Attorney General Ashcroft is committing a fraud upon the American people.”
Criminal defendants have already begun using the Ashcroft letter to challenge their indictments and convictions, arguing that it shows Justice Department support for an individual right to bear arms. Recently the defendant in United States v. Emerson sought to file the Ashcroft letter as supplemental authority. The VPC announced today that law professors David Yassky of Brooklyn Law School and Carl T. Bogus of Roger Williams Law School will file a motion to have the VPC study considered as supplemental authority in the Emerson case. The long-awaited Emerson decision may have a significant impact on future interpretation of the Second Amendment and the constitutionality of federal gun laws.