For Release: Wednesday, June 6, 2001
Letter to NRA on Second Amendment, Delay of NICS Regulation, Signal Dramatic Shift in DOJ Policy
House Judiciary Committee Hearing Today on Ashcroft Activities Comes on Heels of Violence Policy Center Suit Against Attorney General
WASHINGTON, DC The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today charged that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s 180-degree shift in Department of Justice (DOJ) gun policy sends a clear message: while he is reinforcing his relationship with the National Rifle Association (NRA), he is not enforcing the gun laws.
“By running roughshod over established DOJ policies and legal precedent, and working hand-in-hand with the NRA, Attorney General Ashcroft has turned the DOJ into a virtual NRA franchise,” states Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation director and legislative counsel, “Ashcroft’s letter to the NRA touting his pro-gun Second Amendment views, coupled with his illegal delay of a final Justice Department rule implementing a key part of the Brady Law’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for firearm purchases, strongly suggest that his NRA membership supercedes his duties as Attorney General. The VPC was the first gun control group to oppose Ashcroft’s nomination because of our serious concerns regarding his commitment to enforcing our nation’s gun laws. With these latest actions, Ashcroft has clearly demonstrated that our worst fears are coming true.”
In his letter to the NRA, sent just in time for distribution by the organization at its annual convention, Ashcroft detailed a position on the Second Amendment in direct conflict with longstanding legal precedent, historical research, and established U.S. Justice Department policy. His position raises serious questions as to whether Ashcroft will follow through on his confirmation-hearing promises to defend federal gun laws from spurious pro-gun legal challenges.
Ashcroft has also twice suspended implementation of a Brady Law regulation that would ensure that the FBI can retain records of firearm sales for 90 days to prevent fraud and abuse of the NICS.
In a lawsuit filed June 4, 2001, the VPC alleges that Ashcroft relying on the Bush Administration’s policy of summarily delaying final regulations from the previous Administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the principal federal law that gives all interested parties the right to participate in the regulatory process. Ashcroft stopped the Final Rule from going into effect without allowing the public its right to notice and comment by summarily delaying the rule twice for 60 days. Recently, the NRA’s top lobbyist boasted that Ashcroft is conducting a “top-to-bottom” review of the NICS. The VPC’s suit seeks to require Ashcroft to take immediate steps to implement the NICS Final Rule.
“We are hopeful that with today’s hearing the House Judiciary Committee will begin exercising meaningful oversight over the questionable activities of the Attorney General,” adds Nosanchuk.