Ashcroft Weak on Guns

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Ashcroft Weak on Guns

by Dudley Brown, January 2001

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, administer....... etc."

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 http://www.gunowners.org/107srat.htm )

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 "+".

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com