For Release: Thursday, July 26, 2001
Kennedy-Schumer 90-Day Retention Legislation Would Stop Erosion of Gun Policy by Ashcroft Justice Department
Washington, DC The Violence Policy Center (VPC) applauded the introduction today of a bill sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) that would require the retention for a 90-day period of approved firearm purchase records generated by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The retained records are used to audit the background check system to make sure it works effectively and is not being misused. The audit log serves an important law enforcement function and is the key tool in preventing people prohibited from buying guns from using fake IDs or other unlawful means to clear background checks. Without the audit log, the FBI also cannot protect the privacy of all Americans, because there is no way to detect whether a dealer or anyone else is accessing NICS to run unauthorized checks on friends and neighbors.
The Kennedy-Schumer bill would simply maintain a Justice Department rule finalized by the Clinton Administration in January 2001. Attorney General John Ashcroft twice suspended the rule unlawfully and then announced he was gutting it by requiring the destruction of records within a maximum of 24 hours. Ashcroft’s proposal came just three days after the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the Justice Department to retain the records.
The VPC also supports the efforts of Senators Schumer and Kennedy to obtain information from the Department of Justice that will shed light on how this arbitrary new rule was developed.
VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk states,”The Kennedy-Schumer 90-day retention bill will help ensure the effective operation of NICS. Unfortunately, Attorney General Ashcroft has proposed to substitute an NRA-endorsed scheme for the 90 days necessary to audit the system. The Ashcroft rule will put guns into the hands of criminals, wife beaters, and the mentally disturbed – guaranteed.”