Anti-Gun Group Denounces Ashcroft's Weapons Proposals

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - The anti-gun Violence Policy Center said Attorney General John Ashcroft's proposal to bar felons, illegal aliens and others from getting firearms is aimed at speeding up gun sales -- not in protecting the public safety.

At a Wednesday press conference, Ashcroft announced three initiatives to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. A fourth initiative known as "Project Sentry" would focus on "prosecuting gun crimes committed at our nation's schools and protecting juveniles from gun crime," according to Ashcroft.

"The president has emphasized that America's war on terrorism must involve the combined resources of federal, state and local governments. Project Sentry applies the same approach to the problem of school-related violence," the attorney general said.

But the Violence Policy Center isn't buying Ashcroft's recommendations.

"The attorney general's actions show that his first priority is not keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, and other prohibited purchasers, but in fact speeding up gun sales," VPC's Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk said in a statement.

Ensuring that guns are kept out of the hands of illegal aliens, felons, fugitives, and other people in prohibited categories has clearly taken a back seat to the gun lobby's announced goal of making the Brady Law's 'instant check' truly instant. This is being implemented at the expense of public safety," said Nosanchuk.

"This is a clear example of the Justice Department carrying out the will of the National Rifle Association, placing the political and monetary interests of the gun lobby and the gun industry over public safety," Nosanchuk concluded.

Ashcroft said all of the U.S. Attorney's offices have been assigned a Project Sentry coordinator to facilitate partnerships among federal, state and tribal governments. The partnerships will involve law enforcement authorities, community groups and school personnel to help prosecute and supervise juveniles who violate federal and state firearms laws.

Ashcroft also instructed the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, to deny gun transfers to those aliens prohibited from purchasing weapons under existing federal law.

The attorney general said this means the FBI will now work with the INS to check the immigration status of noncitizens who seek a buy a gun. Ashcroft said when a federally licensed firearms dealer calls the NICS system, the FBI will ask if the gun buyer is a citizen. If not, the call will be referred to the INS to determine the buyer's immigration status.

The National Rifle Association likes Ashcroft's proposals.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction. It cleans up a lot of the mess in the system," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanaandam said in a statement.

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