For Release: Thursday, January 4, 2001
National Rifle Association Will Be Running The Justice Department Under Ashcroft, VPC Warns
WASHINGTON The Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national organization working to reduce gun death and injury in America, today announced its strong opposition to the nomination of former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft for United States Attorney General. The VPC announcement represents the first time in the organization’s 12-year history that it has publicly opposed a federal cabinet nominee.
VPC Public Policy Director Joe Sudbay states, “During the 2000 elections, the National Rifle Association claimed that if George Bush won the presidency, the NRA would be working out of his office. Now they’ve gone one better. If John Ashcroft becomes attorney general, the NRA will be running the Justice Department.” Issues cited by the VPC in its opposition to Ashcroft include:
- Ashcroft would be the first Attorney General in recent history who has been the beneficiary of massive spending by a special interest group with a political agenda that is in direct conflict with the duties of the office. During the 2000 election cycle, the NRA spent $339,237 in independent expenditures on behalf of Ashcroft in his failed Senate reelection bid. The NRA’s PAC also made direct contributions to the Ashcroft campaign.
- Ashcroft endorsed and worked on behalf of a failed 1999 NRA-backed referendum in Missouri that would have allowed the carrying of concealed handguns by convicted criminals, including child molesters and stalkers, throughout the state.
- Ashcroft supports NRA efforts to immediately destroy essential records maintained under the Brady law’s National Instant Check System (NICS) that ensure the system’s effectiveness and accuracy. Currently the records are retained for six months.
- Ashcroft voted last Congress to weaken the Brady law. During Senate debate on whether to expand the current Brady NICS background check to all sales at gun shows (not just those by federally licensed dealers), Ashcroft not only voted against the measure, but voted for legislation sponsored by NRA Board Member Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) that would have weakened the Brady law by reducing the time allowed to conduct the background check by all gun-show sellers – including licensed dealers – from three business days to 24 hours.
- Ashcroft opposes the federal assault weapons ban. In September 2004 the federal ban on specific assault weapons and new high-capacity magazines which is supported by virtually every major national law enforcement organization will come up for reauthorization by Congress. Ashcroft opposes the assault weapons ban and twice voted in the Senate against a ban on the importation of foreign-made high-capacity magazines. The Justice Department will likely play a key role in determining what form the reauthorized ban will take and whether or not needed improvements to the ban are made.
VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand adds, “John Ashcroft will place the health and welfare of the NRA and its gun industry allies over that of the American public. What this means is simple: more assault weapons, less vigorous enforcement of federal gun laws, and a rollback of the Brady law. The Senate should not approve his nomination.”