For Release: Wednesday, September 5, 2001
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national non-profit educational organization working to stop gun death and injury in America, joined by Legal Community Against Violence and Physicians for Social Responsibility, submitted formal comments to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opposing Attorney General John Ashcroft’s proposed rule which would dramatically impair the Brady Law’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by requiring virtually immediate destruction of the vast majority of records in the system. The retention of these records for a reasonable period of time is necessary to protect the privacy and security of the system. Without a reasonable retention period, there is no way to identify felons who defraud the background check system by using fake identification, domestic abusers who force their partners to buy guns for them, or bad-apple dealers who run background checks on neighbors or others who are not buying guns.
In its comments, the VPC points out that the proposed rule is the “fruit of a poisonous tree” because it is a byproduct of an an illegal suspension by Ashcroft of a final rule, developed during the Clinton Administration. The Clinton rule would have allowed law enforcement to retain records of approved gun sales for audit purposes for 90 days. The proposal to require near-immediate destruction emerged after Ashcroft postponed the implementation of the 90-day rule, considered cutting the time to 45 days, and then, at the last minute, cut the time for retention down to a maximum of 24 hours. Just three days before Ashcroft announced his proposal, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected once and for all the National Rifle Association’s legal challenge to the FBI’s authority to retain records for audit purposes. Paradoxically, the Ashcroft Justice Department actually argued for such a ruling before in the Supreme Court.
“For Attorney General Ashcroft to advocate the near-immediate destruction of all records of approved gun sales just three days after the U.S. Supreme Court told him that the audit log was perfectly legal is proof positive that the NRA is calling the shots at the Justice Department,” said Mathew Nosanchuk, VPC litigation director and legislative counsel. “What the NRA could not get from the courts, Attorney General Ashcroft has handed the gun lobby on a silver platter.”
The VPC comments on Attorney General Ashcroft’s proposal are available at 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. The site can also be reached through the VPC’s main web site at www.vpc.org.