For Release: Monday, June 25, 2001
Supreme Court Action Strengthens Recent Violence Policy Center (VPC) Lawsuit Against Attorney General Ashcroft Amended Complaint Filed Today
WASHINGTON, DC – Today the U.S. Supreme Court handed a major defeat to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the organization’s ongoing attack on the federal Brady Law. The Supreme Court declined to hear the NRA’s appeal of a decision by the federal court of appeals in the District of Columbia which upheld the legality of a Justice Department regulation implementing the Brady Law’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for firearm purchases. The regulation gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the ability to combat abuse of the system by conducting periodic security audits of electronic records in NICS. Such audits ensure that NICS is not being defrauded in ways that allow felons, fugitives, and other prohibited persons to obtain firearms.
“The Supreme Court’s action makes it clear that the NICS audit log is legal. And while the Ashcroft Justice Department defended the audit log in court, the Attorney General is now working to undermine the system through the regulatory process,” said Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation director and legislative counsel.
On June 4, 2001, the VPC sued Ashcroft in federal district court in Washington, DC for illegally suspending the final Justice Department regulation implementing a 90-day retention period for information on approved firearms transfers in the NICS audit log. The regulation that Ashcroft suspended is an updated version of the one that the Supreme Court declined to review today. The VPC today filed an amended complaint adding two individual plaintiffs who have been injured by Ashcroft’s unlawful delay of the NICS regulation. Tomorrow, the VPC will file a motion asking the court to decide the legal issues in the case in its favor.
In suspending the regulation, Ashcroft cited the need for further “study” of the regulation due to privacy concerns. However, Ashcroft’s own lawyers opposed the NRA’s court petition, arguing that the “Attorney General’s audit log regulations which require both temporary retention of certain information for a brief period and the information’s complete destruction after that period are consistent with the Brady Act.”
Adds Nosanchuk, “Ashcroft’s Justice Department is speaking out of both sides of its mouth defending the legitimacy of the audit log in the Supreme Court, while at the same time undermining it by suspending the final NICS rule that would make the 90-day retention period permanent.”
The Violence Policy Center is represented in its suit by Virginia A. Seitz from the Washington, DC office of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood. 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.