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John Ashcroft on Gun Control

Former Attorney General; Former Republican Senator (MO)


Unequivocal individual gun rights, but restrictions ok

Two advocacy groups plan to file an ethics complaint today against John Ashcroft, arguing that a recent letter from Ashcroft to the National Rifle Association improperly undermines the government’s position in a pending court case. Ashcroft wrote in a May 17 letter to the NRA that he “unequivocally” believes the Constitution protects the right of individuals to own guns. In a Texas case, the US government has argued the opposite, maintaining that the right to own a gun contained in the Second Amendment is a collective, not individual, right.

Ashcroft said in his letter that he “cannot comment on any pending litigation,” but the complaint argues that the rest of his comments have the effect of undermining such litigation. A Justice Department spokeswoman said that Ashcroft “believes there’s an individual right to own a gun, but there are also reasonable restrictions. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

Source: Dan Eggen, Washington Post, Page A17 , Jul 3, 2001

Cut record-keeping to one day for background checks

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced plans to slash the length of time that the government can keep records on instant background checks for gun buyers. The proposal, which infuriated gun control advocates, calls for such records to be held for only one business day after a sale. Ashcroft said , “The intent of the law is to protect the privacy of legitimate gun purchasers.”

Law enforcement agencies can retain records for up to 180 days. The time limit is to drop to 90 days next week. The plan drew immediate criticism from Democratic lawmakers, who accused the Bush administration of pandering to gun dealers and the NRA. “This is the most disappointing news we’ve received in the fight to bring rationality to our guns and laws,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY), who vowed to fight the plan. Schumer and other gun control advocates argued the records should be kept for a reasonable time to help law enforcement agencies uncover fraud and abuse in gun sales.

Source: Cheryl W. Thompson, Washington Post, p. A2 , Jun 29, 2001

Tough penalties for gun crimes, but allow concealed carry

Ashcroft supports tough penalties for violators of federal firearms laws. He proposed banning juvenile possession of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, but has supported measures allowing Missourians to carry concealed weapons.
Source: ABCnews.com, “An Ashcroft Justice Department” , Dec 23, 2000

Voted NO on background checks at gun shows.

Require background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)50; VP decided YES
Reference: Lautenberg Amdt #362; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-134 on May 20, 1999

Voted YES on more penalties for gun & drug violations.

The Hatch amdt would increase mandatory penalties for the illegal transfer or use of firearms, fund additional drug case prosecutors, and require background check on purchasers at gun shows. [A YES vote supports stricter penalties].
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)48; N)47; NV)5
Reference: Hatch Amendment #344; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-118 on May 14, 1999

Voted YES on loosening license & background checks at gun shows.

Vote to table or kill a motion to require that all gun sales at gun shows be completed by federally licensed gun dealers. Also requires background checks to be completed on buyers and requires gun show promoters to register with the Treasury.
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-111 on May 11, 1999

Voted YES on maintaining current law: guns sold without trigger locks.

Vote to table [kill] an amendment to make it unlawful for gun dealers to sell handguns without providing trigger locks. Violation of the law would result in civil penalties, such as suspension or revocation of the dealer's license, or a fine.
Reference: Bill S 2260 ; vote number 1998-216 on Jul 21, 1998

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Page last updated: Mar 14, 2014