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A gun control group filed a lawsuit Monday against Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that he is illegally delaying regulations on background checks for weapons purchases. The Violence Policy Center alleges that Ashcroft intends to eventually toss the regulations out. “They are trying to sneak under the radar screen and avoid the public scrutiny that would come if they were to do this up front,” Violence Policy Center litigation director Mathew Nosanchuk said. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. The Clinton administration regulation would require that records from background checks be kept for 90 days after a handgun purchase is attempted. The idea is to give the FBI time to check for fraud and abuse in the system, supporters say. But the National Rifle Association said keeping such records raises privacy concerns. The NRA filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Reno to dispose of the records immediately after background checks are conducted. The suit was dismissed in U.S. District Court in Washington, but it is being appealed to the Supreme Court. “Since when is it the federal government’s business to be keeping that kind of private information about lawful citizens?” asked NRA spokesman Bill Powers. Ashcroft has twice delayed putting the Clinton administration rule in place. Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden said the delays are allowing a thorough review of the regulation. She added that until a final decision is made the department is adhering to the old guideline of preserving the background check information for 180 days. In 1998, Ashcroft, then a senator from Missouri, voted in favor of an amendment that sought to instantly destroy background check documents. The amendment was defeated. Ashcroft stoked concerns last week after it was disclosed that he wrote a letter to the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Jim Baker, reaffirming his view that an American’s right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution. “We have great concerns about Attorney General John Ashcroft’s commitment to upholding gun laws,” Nosanchuk said. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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