Though he is almost certain to be confirmed, conservatives should
conduct a check on principles before they claim Ashcroft to be
their crowning victory in a left-leaning Bush Administration.
This week, Ashcroft was grilled by Sen. Charles Schumer of N.Y.,
a staunch advocate of gun control. Schumer's line of questioning
was masterful: he was lobbying Ashcroft right before the entire
nation's eyes, moving him to the left on the very issue the media
was chastising him for.
When Schumer asked Ashcroft if the Brady Act, the Feinstein
Assault Weapons ban, and even a prospective licensing and
registration scheme were unconstitutional, Ashcroft replied "No."
Ashcroft even agreed with Schumer that there was a "gun show
loophole" that need to be closed. This is markedly different than
"Though I believe them unconstitutional and oppose these gun
controls, my job as Attorney General is to follow the law,
This revelation, though surprising to those who's soul source of
information is Rush Limbaugh and the NRA, was hardly something
new: anyone reviewing Ashcroft's record in the U.S. Senate knows
that Ashcroft moves where the pressure puts him. In the last few
years, the pressure has been pushing him in the right direction.
But isn't the media vilifying him? Isn't every liberal organization's
zeal to defeat him proof he is a conservative? Letting the media
define your heroes is one of the worst sins in politics: Dan Rather
wouldn't know a real patriot from a Moscow bureaucrat.
Ashcroft's failure to stand firm was certainly not news to those who
get their information from the largest pro-gun organization in
America, Gun Owners of America. A cursory look at Ashcroft's
record on gun issues while in the U.S. Senate shows he is slightly
right of the median vote in the U.S. Senate on many of the most
crucial gun votes.
Following this message are the votes where Ashcroft did not stand
with gun owners, including a Young Adult Gun Ban amendment
that Ashcroft sponsored. By reading these votes, you'll see why
GOA rates him a "C-". It would be stating the obvious that the
NRA rates Republican Ashcroft an "A".
(You can view their ratings, and specific votes, at
Though Ashcroft will be light years better than the Butcher of
Waco, gunnies shouldn't hoist Ashcroft on their shoulders and hold
him up as a hero.
Brown is Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Colorado's largest gun rights organization.
Young adult gun ban
This ban could severely punish parents who allow their kids to
even touch a so-called semi-automatic "assault weapon." While
the amendment allows for certain exemptions, there are some
imponderable questions which NO senator could answer, but
which a parent would have to answer in order to avoid
incarceration. For example: What is a "semiautomatic assault
weapon"? The definition, plus exemptions, takes up six pages of
fine print in the U.S. Code. Second, a child can handle a banned
semi-auto if he is in the "immediate and supervisory presence" of
a parent or if he possess a written permission slip from the
parent. But what happens when, during a target practice session,
the parent walks to the car to retrieve his lunch and the juvenile
is no longer in the parent's "immediate" presence and does not
have a permission slip? A parent can receive jail time for this
infraction. The Senate passed this amendment, which was
introduced by Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO), by a 96-2 vote
on May 13, 1999. A vote against this provision is rated as a "+".
Defeating Hatch-Craig Gun Control
On May 13, 1999, a majority of Senators defeated a motion to
table (or kill) an anti-gun amendment introduced by Senators
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Larry Craig (R-UT). This amendment
was offered as an alternative to gun control proposals being
pushed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg. [For specifics of the
amendment, see vote # 118.] The amendment survived 94-3. A
vote to table (or kill) the amendment is rated as a "+".
Hatch-Craig Gun Control
On May 14, 1999, the Senate passed the Hatch-Craig gun
control amendment by a 48-47 vote. [NOTE: Many anti-gun
Senators voted against this amendment because they favored
more stringent gun controls which would later be offered by Sen.
Lautenberg.] The Hatch-Craig amendment would impose
several 2nd Amendment restrictions. It would ban ANY private
sale at a gun show that does not first go through a background
registration check. In addition, the Hatch-Craig amendment
would assign one U.S. attorney in every district exclusively to
harass gun owners. And of the $50,000,000 allocated towards
this purpose, a full $40 million of it will go to increasing the
presence of the BATF-- not to investigate murders, violent
felonies, or crimes of violence, but to pursue "firearms" offenses
(most of which will be recordkeeping and other innocuous errors
by law-abiding Americans). The Hatch-Craig provision would
also impose a lifetime gun ban for juveniles committing youthful
indiscretions at a very young age; extend the arcane and
confusing juvenile handgun ban to semi-autos; and increase
penalties for violating the almost incomprehensible regulations
governing the circumstances under which one may legally take
one'ssss child hunting or target shooting with a handgun or semi-
auto. A vote against the Hatch-Craig amendment is rated as a
Background registration checks
On May 20, 1999, Republican Senators Gordon Smith (OR)
and James Jeffords (VT) offered up more restrictions on the sale
of firearms. Their amendment subjects pawn shop and repair
shop transactions to the same registration and background
check requirements as purchases from dealers. A vote against
the amendment, which passed 79-21, is rated as a "+".
Anti-gun juvenile crime bill
The Senate passed the gun control laden juvenile crime bill by a
73-25 vote on May 20, 1999. Besides the several provisions
related to punishing juveniles who commit crimes, S. 254
contained several gun control amendments (see vote numbers
115, 116, 118, 122, 133 and 134 for details on these anti-gun
provisions). [NOTE: On vote #118, all language pertaining to
background registration checks at gun shows was superceded
by the Lautenberg amendment in vote number 134.] A vote
against S. 254 is rated as a "+".
Ending the Smith filibuster
On July 28, the Senate ended a filibuster led by Senator Bob
Smith (I-NH) -- a filibuster intended to keep anti-gun crime
legislation from progressing any further. After the 77-22 vote,
the Senate moved to send the language of the anti-gun Senate
crime bill (S. 254) to a House-Senate conference committee. A
vote against ending the filibuster is rated as a "+".
Non-binding Senate instructions
On March 1, 2000, Sen. Barbara Boxer failed in her attempt to
instruct House-Senate conferees to finish its work on the anti-
gun juvenile crime bill. After attacking Gun Owners of America
for its refusal to compromise and for opposing firearms
restrictions, Boxer saw her non-binding resolution fail on a 49-
49 tie. A vote against the Boxer amendment (to S. 1134) is
rated as a "+".