Washington — Two senators asked Thursday for all internal memoranda and documents related to Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's decision to purge gun purchase files after one day.
Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts plan to subpoena the documents if Ashcroft doesn't comply.
"We're going to use the resources necessary to get it," said Kennedy, a member of the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on administrative oversight and the courts, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department. Schumer is the subcommittee chairman.
The senators sent letters to Ashcroft and Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard requesting all reports, memos and documents from the past three years that address the need for keeping the files beyond one day, the effects of destroying them within 24 hours or that otherwise relate to changing the time period for retaining the files.
Mindy Tucker, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said officials there have not yet seen the request and could not comment. The FBI had no immediate comment.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System gun purchase files are kept temporarily so that the FBI can go back and look for fraudulent transactions or mistaken approvals. Current regulations specify that the files can be kept for 90 days.
Called NICS, the system electronically checks law enforcement records while gun buyers are waiting to make purchases. Felons, drug users, and people subject to domestic violence restraining orders are among those prohibited from buying guns.