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Posted: 7/30/2001 8:34:53 PM EDT
Ashcroft is 'fresh air' to NRA, nightmare to group's opponents 07/30/2001 By Michelle Mittelstadt / The Dallas Morning News WASHINGTON – To the delight of the National Rifle Association and the dismay of gun-control activists, Attorney General John Ashcroft is reshaping the federal government's approach to enforcing gun laws and interpreting the Second Amendment. Just as both sides in the gun debate were divided over Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation as attorney general, they offer differing assessments of his first six months on the job. For gun-rights advocates, Mr. Ashcroft is welcome relief after eight years of a Clinton administration that they say trampled on the rights of gun owners and was soft on gun crimes. The new attorney general is responsible for a "night-to-day shift from the Janet Reno regime," an NRA magazine says in a July cover story on Mr. Ashcroft, who was a key NRA ally when he was a Missouri senator and is a lifetime member of the association. "Attorney General John Ashcroft is a breath of fresh air to freedom-loving gun owners," says the magazine, America's First Freedom. Mr. Ashcroft's critics, however, contend that he is gutting the Brady law despite a confirmation pledge to uphold existing statutes and not impose his personal views. And they have been angered by his view that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to bear arms, saying that interpretation – enunciated in a letter to the NRA and being codified as official Justice Department policy – conflicts with six decades of Supreme Court precedent asserting a collective, not individual, right. "If the Ashcroft Constitution prevails, then all of the gun-safety laws that we in the Congress and in the state legislatures have adopted can be tossed out the window," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. "Theoretically, your right to ... pack heat into the kindergarten would be protected under the Second Amendment." Nonsense, says Ashcroft spokeswoman Mindy Tucker. His endorsement of an individual right to bear arms "is not inconsistent with reasonable restrictions on gun ownership," she said. Gun policy changes The tempest over Mr. Ashcroft's interpretation of the Second Amendment in that May 17 letter has sparked an ethics complaint by critics who accuse him of undermining the Justice Department's position in a pending Texas case. And it is just one of several issues that concern gun-control advocates. Others include: • The Bush administration's decision last week to end a $15 million gun buyback program by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that is credited with taking 20,000 guns out of circulation in fiscal 2000. • The State Department's success this month in watering down a United Nations pact to curtail the global flow of illegal small arms. Delegates from some of the 188 other countries that endorsed the plan denounced the United States for its refusal to accept limits on foreign weapon sales and curbs on civilian gun ownership.
Link Posted: 7/30/2001 8:36:20 PM EDT
• Mr. Ashcroft's directive last month that the FBI destroy criminal background check records for gun buyers after one day instead of the 90 days under current policy. Just days earlier, the Supreme Court had handed the NRA a defeat in its effort to force immediate destruction of the records. "It is becoming increasingly obvious that the NRA's wish is the Bush administration's command," said Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, until recently known as Handgun Control Inc. "In office for merely six months, the Bush administration has repeatedly shown that it will weaken the very gun laws it claims to want to enforce." Just the opposite, said a Bush ally on Capitol Hill, who praised the administration for standing up to "left-wing criticism from the national media and international community." "In recent weeks, the Bush administration has demonstrated a clear and welcome break from the eroding disrespect shown the Constitution during the Clinton administration," said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga. "The repair needed to restore our Second Amendment principles is extensive, and it is a fight far from over; but thus far it has been met with a consistent and principled commitment by the Bush administration." While NRA officials have extolled Mr. Ashcroft's actions in association literature, they did not offer any comment for this story. Anti-crime efforts Administration officials say that their efforts to increase the prosecution of gun crimes have been overshadowed. An initiative to stem the illegal flow of guns from the United States into Mexico, announced last week by Mr. Ashcroft, received scant attention, Justice Department officials said. President Bush earlier this year unveiled Project Safe Neighborhoods, which will add new prosecutors to pursue gun crimes and includes $44 million to help states upgrade criminal background records. "The core message from the Bush administration on guns has been that we are going to aggressively prosecute gun crimes," said Ms. Tucker of the Justice Department. "If you commit a crime with a gun, you will not find a friendly party in this administration." Gun-control advocates suggest, however, that Mr. Ashcroft's move to reduce retention of background check records will open the door to more criminals getting guns. At a news conference Thursday, Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York said that they will introduce legislation to mandate that the records be retained for 90 days. Similar legislation was defeated in the House. "Since 1994, the Brady law and its background checks have stopped 689,000 criminals and other prohibited purchasers from buying guns," Mr. Kennedy said. "The changes the attorney general is proposing will seriously restrict background checks and undermine the effectiveness of the law." While slashing the record-keeping period, Justice Department officials say they are putting in place a "real-time" auditing system that will prove far more effective. Sarah Brady what a mindless windbag.[frag]
Link Posted: 7/30/2001 9:10:07 PM EDT
While not a Victory Ashcroft is doing things differently and I like what he is doing here even if only rhetoric and attitude. The Antis are having a cow. lbj sooo glad so far that Ashcroft lost his Senate seat last November. Right or left, Dem or Republican, I cannot think of anyone whatsoever who would say what he has regarding this issue regardless of action. The tone alone is like nothing I have heard the AG of these United States express since the GCA of '68. That alone was long in coming and I thought I'd never see it.
Link Posted: 7/30/2001 9:17:25 PM EDT
Link Posted: 7/30/2001 9:17:43 PM EDT
You can tell a man by his enemies.
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