U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft will go against the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the government's fight against assault weapons.... The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio has begun hearing arguments over whether an assault-weapons ban under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 violates the U.S. Constitution. Ashcroft, a life member of the NRA, has enlisted retired Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Cleveland), a lifelong enemy of the gun lobby and a chief sponsor of the ban, to assist him with the government's case. Ashcroft's assistants have been referencing Metzenbaum's Senate record for legal arguments aimed at maintaining a federal law that restricts access to the guns. "The outcome of this case will significantly affect the future safety of the public and law-enforcement officers," said Richard Rosen, a Washington lawyer who represents the groups supporting the ban. When the ban was being debated in the U.S. Congress, Metzenbaum argued that such action was needed because the military features on some semiautomatic rifles made them a threat to society and especially valuable to drug dealers and violent gangs.