The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act

Posted on July 28, 1999

Print
Email
Share
The "Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act"
Does It Live Up To Its Name?

By what standard should the Brady Act be judged? President Clinton and Handgun Control, Inc., consider the law a resounding success, claiming that its five-day waiting period has disapproved hundreds of thousands of handgun purchase applications. That claim warrants close inspection on many fronts. But the more important question is whether the law accomplishes its stated objective: the "prevention" of "handgun violence." For many reasons, it does not.

I. The Act`s five-day waiting period has never applied to many high-crime states

**Under the Act, states are exempt from the five-day waiting period if their laws require law enforcement officials to conduct records checks to verify that prospective handgun purchasers are eligible to possess handguns. [18 U.S.C. §922(s)(1)(C)(ii)] When President Clinton signed the Act into law in 1993, 18 states and D.C. were automatically "Brady-exempt."

**The 18 states and D.C. that have always been "Brady-exempt" accounted for 63% of violent crimes, including 57% of murders, in the U.S. in 1993. Thus, the Brady Act had no effect on states where the majority of violent crimes were occurring. (Note: Less than 30% of violent crimes are committed with firearms.)

Number of % of Violent Number of % of Murders

State/City Law/Delay on Handgun Purchases Violent Crimes Crimes in U.S. Murders in the U.S.

California Waiting Period: 15-day 336,381 17.5% 4,096 16.7%

New York License: 1-month 195,352 10.2% 2,420 9.9%

Florida Waiting Period:3-day, Instant Check 164,975 8.6% 1,224 5.0%

Illinois License: 1-month 112,260 5.8% 1,332 5.4%

Michigan Permit: 1-week 75,021 3.9% 933 3.8%

Maryland Waiting Period: 1-week 49,540 2.6% 632 2.6%

New Jersey License: 1-month 49,390 2.6% 418 1.7%

Massachusetts License: 1-month 48,393 2.5% 233 1.0%

Missouri Permit: 1-week 38,963 2.0% 590 2.4%

Indiana Waiting Period: 1-week 27,941 1.5% 430 1.8%

Virginia Instant Check: 24,160 1.3% 539 2.2%

D.C. Ban: 16,888 0.9% 454 1.9%

Oregon Waiting Period: 15-day 15,254 0.8% 140 0.6%

Connecticut Waiting Period: 14-day 14,949 0.8% 206 0.8%

Wisconsin Waiting Period: 1-week, Instant Check 13,321 0.7% 222 0.9%

Iowa Permit: 1-week 9,159 0.5% 66 0.3%

Nebraska Permit: 2-day 5,450 0.3% 63 0.3%

Delaware Instant Check: 4,801 0.2% 35 0.1%

Hawaii Permit: 14-day 3,061 0.2% 45 0.2%

Total 1,205,259 62.6% 14,078 57.4%

** California had more murders and other violent crimes than any state in 1993. Despite a 15- day waiting period on all firearm sales (retail and private; rifle, pistol and shotgun) its violent crime and murder rates were, respectively, 54% and 46% higher than the rates for the rest of the country. Among U.S. cities, Los Angeles had the the third highest number of violent crimes (83,701), including the second highest number of murders (1,076).

** New York had the second highest number of murders and other violent crimes among the states. Among cities, N.Y.C., which has its own licensing system on top of the state requirement, had the most violent crimes (153,543), including the most murders (1,946). California and New York, just two of the original 18 "Brady-exempt" states, together had more violent crimes than the total of 29, and more murders than the total of 28, of the 32 states originally subject to the five-day wait.

** Other "Brady-exempt" cities and their murder numbers in 1993 included Chicago (handguns banned since 1982), 845; Detroit, 579; Baltimore, 353; St. Louis, 267; Kansas City, 153; Milwaukee, 157; and Oakland, 154. Six of the 10 U.S. cities with the most murders, and 17 of the 30 cities with 100+ murders, in 1993 were "Brady-exempt."

** Today, 31 states and D.C. are "Brady-exempt." Thirteen became exempt since the law took effect 2/28/94, by adopting Instant Check or modifying purchase permit or waiting period laws.

Always Exempt Once Subject, Now Exempt Always Subject

California--WP Arizon--IC Alabama

Connecticut--WP Colorado--IC Alaska

Delaware--IC Georgi--IC Arkansas

D.C.--Handgun ban Idaho--IC Kansas

Florid--WP, IC Minnesot--WP, P Kentucky

Hawaii--WP, P Nevad--IC Louisiana

Illinois--WP, L, IC New Hampshire--IC Maine

Indian--WP North Carolin--P Mississippi

Iow--P Pennsylvani--IC Montana

Maryland--WP South Carolin--IC New Mexico

Massachusetts--P, L Tennessee--WP North Dakota

Michigan--P Utah--IC Ohio

Missouri--P Washington--WP Oklahoma

Nebrask--P Rhode Island

New Jersey--P, L South Dakota

New York--L Texas

Oregon--IC Vermont

Virgini--IC West Virginia

Wisconsin--WP, IC Wyoming

WP = Waiting period, P = Permit to purchase, L = License to own/purchase, IC = Instant Check

** States that impose waiting periods without a records check, or with a check not considered Brady-equivalent by BATF, are considered by the BATF to be subject to the federal waiting period. (Ala., Penna., Rhode Is., S. Dakota and Wash.) The BATF does not consider Arizona and South Carolina to be "Brady-exempt," but both states conduct handgun purchases by Instant Check. Nebraska and Tennessee have legislatively adopted Instant Check and are expected to have their systems on-line soon.

II. The failure of waiting periods was well known before the Brady Act was passed

** Before Congress and President Clinton approved the Brady bill in 1993, laws delaying handgun purchases (imposed in 24 states) were known to have no effect on crime. During 1992, the most recent year of data available when the Brady bill was passed, California, the state with the most restrictive waiting period law (15 days on all firearm sales, retail and private) had total violent crime and murder rates 58% and 44% higher, respectively, than the rates for the rest of the country. (FBI) Anti-gun researcher David McDowell hadconcluded that "waiting periods have no influence on either gun homicides or gun suicides." ("Preventative Effects of Firearm Regulations on Injury Mortality," prepared for the annual meeting ofthe American Society of Criminology, 1993) Sarah Brady, chair of Handgun Control, Inc., had admitted that a waiting period "is not a panacea. It`s not going to stop crimes of passion or drug-related crime." (The Washingtonian, March 1991)

** As indicated in the table below, in 1992 states delaying the purchase of handguns and D.C. had higher violent crime rates overall, than states that did not delay handgun purchases. Additionally, states that delayed handgun purchases were more likely to have violent crime and murder rates higher than the national rates. Of the 12 states (and D.C.) that had violent crime rates higher than the national rate, eight (and D.C.) delayed handgun purchases. Of the 16 states (and D.C.) that had murder rates higher than the national rate, nine (and D.C.) delayed handgun purchases. (Data: FBI, "Crime in the United States, 1992")

Violent Aggv. Violent Aggv.

Crime Homicide Robbery Assault Crime Homicide Robbery Assault

U.S. 757.5 9.3 263.6 441.8

States delaying the purchase of handguns States not delaying the purchase of handguns

Alabama 871.7 11.0 164.9 654.6 Alaska 660.5 7.5 109.0 445.3

California 1119.7 12.7 424.1 641.6 Arizona 670.8 8.1 153.1 466.6

Connecticut 495.3 5.1 210.9 252.5 Arkansas 576.5 10.8 125.5 399.0

D.C. 2832.8 75.2 1266.4 1454.7 Colorado 578.8 6.2 120.5 404.9

Florida 1207.2 9.0 366.9 777.2 Delaware 621.2 4.6 151.2 379.5

Hawaii 258.4 3.6 99.2 117.7 Georgia 733.2 11.0 249.8 427.1

Illinois 977.3 11.4 412.5 516.4 Idaho 281.4 3.5 21.5 224.7

Indiana 508.3 8.0 122.2 335.7 Kansas 510.8 6.0 129.9 333.7

Iowa 278.0 1.6 39.6 218.0 Kentucky 535.5 5.8 87.2 410.4

Maryland 1000.1 12.1 429.0 512.6 Louisiana 984.6 17.4 271.4 653.4

Massachusetts 779.0 3.6 184.4 555.0 Maine 130.9 1.7 23.3 82.0

Michigan 770.1 9.9 221.5 458.6 Mississippi 411.7 12.2 124.5 230.4

Minnesota 338.0 3.3 109.5 184.1 Montana 169.9 2.9 26.9 114.6

Missouri 740.4 10.5 226.9 466.5 Nevada 696.8 10.9 331.3 291.8

Nebraska 348.6 4.2 56.7 256.2 New Hamp. 125.7 1.6 33.0 52.9

New Jersey 625.8 5.1 285.2 304.8 New Mexico 934.9 8.9 139.3 724.1

New York 1122.1 13.2 596.9 483.5 North Dakota 83.3 1.9 7.9 50.3

North Carolina 681.0 10.6 186.8 447.7 Ohio 525.9 6.6 199.0 268.2

Oregon 510.2 4.7 151.4 301.1 Oklahoma 622.8 6.5 136.2 431.6

Pennsylvania 427.0 6.2 180.7 212.4 South Carolina 944.5 10.4 170.6 706.0

Rhode Island 394.5 3.6 94.5 265.5 Texas 806.3 12.7 252.5 487.7

South Dakota 194.5 0.6 16.9 125.3 Utah 290.5 3.0 55.9 186.2

Tennessee 746.2 10.4 218.2 470.3 Vermont 109.5 2.1 8.9 73.5

Washington 534.5 5.0 139.8 317.8 Virginia 374.9 8.8 137.8 196.8

Wisconsin 275.7 4.4 119.8 125.3 West Virginia 211.5 6.3 43.5 140.0

Wyoming 319.5 3.6 18.0 262.9

Group total 828.6 9.4 308.4 469.7 Group total 615.7 9.1 174.3 386.2

Percent higher 34.6% 3.7% 76.9% 21.6%

than non-delay states

III. Many states subjected to the Act`s five-day wait were historically low-crime states

** Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, N. Dakota, Rhode Is., S. Dakota, Utah, Vermont, W. Virginia, and Wyoming were 12 of the 32 states originally subject to the Act`s waiting period. Most later became "Brady-exempt" by adopting Instant Check. The Brady bill was an exercise of federal power, forcing states, including those that had rejected state waiting period legislation, to live under a national "gun control" scheme previously found in mostly high-crime states.

IV. The Act`s waiting period does not prevent criminals from obtaining handguns

** "Brady may not directly result in measurable reductions of gun-related crimes." (General Accounting Office,"Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act," Report to the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, and the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, GAO/GGD-96-22 Gun Control, January 1996, p. 8)

** "It is hard to see the Brady law, heralded by many politicians, the media, and Handgun Control, Inc. as an important step toward keeping handguns out of the hands of dangerous and irresponsible persons, as anything more than a sop to the widespread fear of crime....There is little reason to accept the claim that Brady is preventing 40,000 dangerous and irresponsible persons per year from obtaining handguns." (New York University professors James B. Jacobs and Kimberley A. Potter, "Keeping Guns Out Of The `Wrong` Hands: The Brady Law And The Limits Of Regulation," The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Northwestern University School of Law, Vol. 86, No. 1, Fall 1995)

** Only 7% of armed career criminals obtain firearms from licensed gun shops. (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms "Protecting America: The Effectiveness of the Federal Armed Career Criminal Statute," 1992, p. 28)

** Only 7% of "handgun predators" obtain firearms from licensed gun shops. (James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi for the Department of Justice,"Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Study of Felons and Their Firearms," 1986, p. 187.)

** 85% of police chiefs believe that the Brady Act has not stoppedcriminals from obtaining handguns. (Membership poll, National Association of Chiefs of Police, May 1997)

** Brady`s 5-day wait "does not cut off to prohibited purchasers all avenues to handguns." ("Denying Handguns To Prohibited Purchasers: Quantifying The Impact Of The Brady Law," Douglas Weil, Handgun Control, Inc.`s Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, August 26, 1996)

V. States subject to Brady`s 5-day wait have had worse violent crime trends

** Violent crime has declined nationwide during the 1990s, but in the first two years of the Brady Act (before additional states subject to the Act`s five-day waiting period became exempt) violent crime and murder rates declined less, overall, in states subject to the 5-day wait. The overall violent crime rate in states the Brady Act`s five-day waiting period was imposed upon declined six percent versus a decline of 9.4% in "Brady-exempt" states. The overall murder rate declined nine percent in Brady states, versus 16.9% in "Brady-exempt" states. (Data: FBI)

VI. Seven of every 10 violent crimes are not committed with firearms

** Specifically, 29% of homicides, 90% of rapes, 59% of robberies, and 77% of aggravated assaults are committed with weapons other than firearms. Approximately 10,000 murders are committed each year with weapons other than handguns, most with weapons other than firearms. (Homicides, robbery, and aggravated assault data, FBI; rape data, Nat`l Crime Victimization Surveys)

VII. The Brady Act`s waiting period leads to fewer arrests of prohibited purchasers, compared to Instant Check

** Unlike waiting periods and other schemes delaying handgun purchases for days or weeks, an "Instant Check" usually requires only a few minutes to complete, so it is conducted while the prospective purchaser waits in the firearm dealer`s store. Therefore, when a person prohibited from possessing firearms attempts to buy a firearm, the police become aware of it while the individual is still on thedealer`s premises, and they can dispatch officers to make an arrest. The Virginia State Police report that between Nov. 1989 and June 1997 the state`s Instant Check system led to the arrest of 3,234 individuals, including 456 wanted persons. On the second day of Virginia`s Instant Check, an arrest was made leading to theconviction of three individuals for a murder in New Jersey.

(Virginia provides perhaps the best example of Instant Check`s capabilities. It is the one of the earliest Instant Check states, having had its system since 1989, and conducts Instant Checks on all firearms. Some Instant Check states do not conduct checks on purchasers of rifles and/or shotguns.)

** By comparison, fewer arrests occur in all states subject to the Brady Act`s waiting period combined, despite President Clinton`s claims that his Administration has been tough on criminals. The General Accounting Office has reported that "available information suggested that the number [of Brady-related prosecutions and convictions] is relatively small nationally. DOJ [Dept. of Justice] views Brady as more of a deterrent than a prosecutive mechanism, and ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] stated that most cases referred by ATF field offices to U.S. Attorneys have been declined." The GAO found that during the Brady Act`s first 17 months, only seven individuals were convicted of illegal attempts to buy handguns, three of whom were sentenced to 12-24 months prison or custody, and four of whom were only placed on probation. Of 250 cases referred for prosecution during Brady`s first year, 217 were rejected. ("Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act," Report to the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, and the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, GAO/GGD-96-22 Gun Control, January 1996, pp. 8, 45)

On Dec. 24, 1997, the Dept. of Justice, citing statistics from the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, stated that during Fiscal Years 1994-1997 only 599 individuals were convicted of providing false information on either federal forms 4473 (used to document retail firearms purchases) or Brady handgun purchase application forms. During this period, a minimum of 75 of those convicted provided false information on Brady forms. (Letter from Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney to Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.)

VIII. Most who apply to buy handguns under the Brady Act (or other systems) are law-abiding citizens

** The General Accounting Office reported that during the Act`s first year, 95.2% of handgun purchase applicants were approved without a hitch. Of the denials, nearly half were due to traffic tickets or administrative problems with application forms (including sending forms to the wrong law enforcement agency). ("Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act," Report to theCommittee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, and the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, GAO/GGD-96-22, Jan. 1996, pp. 64-66)

** Law-abiding citizens are often incorrectly denied as "criminals" because their names or other identifying information are similar to those of criminals, triggering "false hits" during records checks. GAO notes that denials reported by BATF in its one-year study of the Brady Act, "do not reflect the fact that some of the initially denied applications were subsequently approved, following administrative or other appeal procedures." (GAO, p. 30) Professors James Jacobs and Kimberley Potter have concluded "it is possible that the many people found to be ineligible to purchase handguns were misidentified because they had the same name as a person who is ineligible." (Jacobs, Potter, p. 103, emphasis in the original)

** GAO reports that "Only 4 of the 15 jurisdictions (studied) had sufficiently detailed records to permit GAO to quantify denials based on violent crimes. GAO found that denials of applicants who had been convicted of or indicted for aggravated assault, murder, rape, or robbery totaled 371 and represented 0.2 percent of the applications and 4.9 percent of the denials in these 4 jurisdictions." (GAO, p. 6)

More About The Brady Act

The Brady bill was originally named for anti-gun lobbyist Sarah Brady. In announcing that the bill would be introduced in Congress in 1987, Handgun Control, Inc. claimed that it "will be known as the `Sarah Brady Bill` (Handgun Control, Inc., "Washington Report," Spring 1987). In a promotional pamphlet, HCI noted that it was "known as the `Brady Bill` for Sarah Brady." Later, HCI claimed it was named for both Sarah and her husband, former White House Press Secretary Jim Brady. Later still, HCI claimed the bill was named for Jim Brady alone, a non-fact invariably reported by the media today.

The bill was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in Nov. 1993 and took effect Feb. 28, 1994. The Act requires, in some states, with some exceptions, a waiting period of five state government business days from the time a person applies to purchase a handgun from a federal firearm licensee (FFL, generally, a federally licensed firearm dealer, manufacturer or importer) and the time the handgun is transferred to the buyer. As originally imposed, the Act required that, during the five-day wait, the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO, a sheriff or police chief or, in some states, a state law enforcement agency) in the buyer`s area "shall make a reasonable effort" to determine if the buyer is prohibited from possessing a handgun. (Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, persons convicted of crimes punishable by more than a year in prison, fugitives, unlawful drug users and addicts, adjudicated mental incompetents and persons who have been committed to mental institutions, illegal aliens, persons dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces, persons who have renounced U.S. citizenship, [since 1994] persons under certain restraining orders and, [since 1996] persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses are prohibited from possessing firearms. Licensed firearm dealers are prohibited from transferring handguns to persons under age 21; rifles and shotguns to persons under age 18. Since 1994, non- licensees have been prohibited from transferring handguns to persons under age 18, and persons under age 18 have been prohibited from possessing handguns, with exceptions.)

However, in June 1997, the United States Supreme Court struck down, as a violation of the 10th Amendment separation of federal and state powers, the Brady Act`s requirement upon state and local law enforcement officials. Before passage of the Brady bill, during congressional hearings, the NRA had predicted that the provision would be declared unconstitutional.

FFLs still must notify CLEOs of proposed handgun sales and CLEOs may, at their discretion, still perform records checks. CLEOs may approve a sale before five days, if the records check has been completed or if he believes the buyer needs a handgun to protect himself or a member of his household. The waiting period is not required if the purchaser has a valid license or permit to possess or acquire a handgun, if the license or permit was issued after a criminal records check, and issued not more than five years earlier by the state in which the sale is to occur. (In Alaska, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, an individual with a valid license or permit to carry a concealed firearm, issued not more than five years previous to the sale of the handgun, is exempt from the federal waiting period.)

The General Accounting Office study

The GAO studied 20 Brady jurisdictions, 15 of which--Arizona; Arkansas; Kentucky; Nevada; Ohio; SouthCarolina; Clayton and Fulton Counties (Georgia); Bossier and Caddo Parishes (Louisiana); and Abilene, Fort Worth, Harris County (Houston area), Houston, and Pasadena (Texas)--had records identifying general reasons for purchase denials. GAO reviewed 384,301 retail handgun purchase applications occurring between Feb. 28, 1994 andFeb. 28, 1995, and found that 95.2% of applicants were approved immediately. Of the 4.8% disapproved, nearly half involved administrative errors (applications prepared or mailed incorrectly, etc.) or erroneous denials for traffic tickets. Persons denied for violent and nonviolent crime-related reasons accounted for 2.4% of applicants; denials due to administrative errors, 2%; and denials due to traffic tickets, 0.4%. Only four jurisdictions--Ohio; South Carolina; and Harris (Houston) and Tarrant (Fort Worth) Counties, Texas--had records identifying denials for violent crime reasons, and 0.2% of handgun purchase applications were so denied. (See additional discussion of the GAO study on previous pages).

The Bureau of Justice Statistics studies

In February 1997, to coincide with the third anniversary of the Brady Act, the BJS released a study of firearm transactions in Brady and Brady-exempt states. The study`s conclusions were based upon a random sample of reports from fewer than 200 small, medium, and large towns and cities. The BJS estimated that of 9 million handgun transactions in Brady and non-Brady states, 186,000 (2%) were rejected. Of the rejections, seven of 10 were for reason of felony conviction or warrant.

Clinton claimed that the BJS found that Brady caused 186,000 handgun purchase denials. Even if the claim were truthful, "handgun purchase denials" is not the standard by which Brady should be judged. More important is whether the law prevents crimes or threatens law-abiding citizens` safety. The president`s claim was not truthful, though. As BJS stated on the front page of its report, "186,000" was a national estimate. Recognizing that 18 states and the District of Columbia have never been subject to Brady`s waiting period, BJS noted only 86,000 denials occurred in the 32 "original Brady states." Even that figure is inflated, however, because 13 of those 32 states are no longer subject to the five-day waiting period, having adopted Instant Check or other laws since the Brady Act took effect. Additionally, many Brady-exempt states conduct records checks on people who purchase rifles and shotguns; the five-day waiting period applies to handguns only. Perhaps only one-third of the denials claimed by the president could be attributable to the Brady Act.

Denial statistics tell nothing about Brady`s worth, however. The GAO study found that nearly half of denials had resulted from administrative errors. Additionally, records checks often result in denials because potential gun buyers have the same or similar name and other personal information (e.g., date and place of birth) as someone with a criminal record. Denial statistics "do not reflect thefact that some of the initially denied applications were subsequently approved, following administrative or other appeal procedures," GAO said. Denial statistics rarely identify denials due to violent crimes. Though it warned against making national projections on the basis of limited data, GAO found that only 7% of denials in two states and two urban counties were for violent offenses. Also, denial statistics don`t tell if a person denied already owns a gun, intends to commit a crime, or later commits a crime. BJS noted that its estimates "do not indicate whether rejected purchasers later obtained a firearm through other means."

In June 1998, the BJS released another report on firearm transactions nationwide, this one indicating that 69,000 handgun purchase denials had occurred nationwide in 1997. The figure was for the entire country, though only 19 states remain subject to the Act`s five-day waiting period. And, the figure was for all denials, not only those due to criminal records and arrest warrants. Nevertheless, President Clinton immediately claimed that the Brady Act stops "hundreds of thousands of felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying handguns every year." Within days, the Indianapolis Star/News reported that BJS had overstated by more than 1,300% the number of handgun purchases that were blocked in Indiana in 1997.

The 5-day wait ends and Instant Check begins

Before the Brady bill was passed by Congress, it was amended with an NRA-endorsed provision to require that the five-day wait expire in Nov. 1998, at which time a nationwide Instant Check system will be implemented. (NRA supported, but gun control supporters opposed, a nationwide Instant Check proposed in the 101st Congress by Rep. Harley O. Staggers, D-W.Va.)

However, in June 1998, President Clinton and HCI announced their desire for the Brady Act`s waiting period provision to not expire, rather to continue permanently along with the Instant Check. White House senior advisor Rahm Emanuel claimed on June 14th that "The five-day waiting period was established for a cooling off period for crimes of passion." (NBC`s "Meet the Press") The statement was false. As the inclusion of its Instant Check amendment makes clear, the Brady Act was imposed not for a "cooling off period," but for a records check requirement as an obstacle to firearm purchases byfelons, fugitives and other prohibited persons. Furthermore, during congressional hearings on the Brady bill on Sept. 30, 1993, Assistant Attorney General Eleanor Acheson, testifying for the Department of Justice, had stated that there were no statistics to support claims that handguns are often used in crimes soon after being purchased.And, as noted, Sarah Brady had admitted in 1991 that crimes of passion would not be stopped by the Brady bill. Moreover, since the Brady Act took effect, its supporters had attempted to justify the law on the basis of handgun purchase denials alone, not on the number of prevented crimes, whether "crimes of passion" or otherwise.

To justify the new "crimes of passion" argument, Rahm claimed that "Based on police research, 20 percent of the guns purchased that are used in murder are purchased within the week of the murder." The claim was severely out of step with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gun tracing statistics which show that the average time between the purchase of a gun and its use in murder is more than six years. (For robbery and assault, 5.6 years.) The NRA immediately contacted Emanuel`s office to ask which specific "police research" he had in mind, and was told that he did not know. The claim, NRA was told, was based solely upon "briefing materials provided by Handgun Control." A call to HCI`s Bob Walker proved about as informative. When asked about the "research," Walker said he would investigate and call back with the information. Despite two follow-up calls to his office, Walker never responded.

Within days, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report showing that during 1997, there had been an estimated 24,000 handgun purchase denials in the 32 states that had originally been subject to the Brady Act`s five-day waiting period (implying a considerably smaller number in the 20 states that were subject to that provision in 1997). On the same day, President Clinton proclaimed that the Brady Act had stopped "hundreds of thousands of felons, fugitives and stalkers from buying handguns every year."

James Bovard took the president to task in the June 25 Wall Street Journal, writing that "The Clinton administration is lauding the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 -- but its claims about the law`s effects are bogus." Bovard concluded, "Gun-control laws, like all laws governing private conduct, ultimately rest on the trustworthiness of our political leaders. Every lie or deception that government officials use to justify these laws undermines their legitimacy. The Clinton administration`s record on the Brady Act seems custom-made to maximize citizens` distrust of Washington."

Why the President and Handgun Control want a waiting period

The criminal records check will be the same, whether Instant Check is accompanied by the five-day waiting period. And, as noted, BATF firearms tracing data show that the average time between a gun`s purchase and its use in a violent crime is six years. Additionally, the Department of Justice admits there are no statistics to supportclaims to the contrary.

The White House and anti-gun groups want the waiting period not to stop "crimes of passion," but to complicate the process of buying a gun and therefore dissuade some people from buying guns. Instant Check also enables a person who needs a gun for protection to acquire one quickly and HCI opposes the use of firearms for protection.

Protection is perhaps the primary reason that people buy guns today. But HCI Chair Sarah Brady says that "the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes. ("Keeping the battle alive," Tom Jackson, Tampa Tribune, October 21, 1993) Asked "Aren`t any handguns defensible?," Jim Brady responded, "For defense of the home, that`s why we have police departments." ("In Step With: James Brady," Parade Magazine, Washington Post, June 26, 1994, p. 18) Dennis Henigan, of HCI`s Center to Prevent Handgun Violence said self-defense is "not a federally guaranteed constitutional right." (USA Today, 11/20/91) Former HCI Chair Pete Shields wrote that if you are attacked, "Put up no defense - give them (the criminals) what they want . . ." (Guns Don`t Die - People Do, 1981)

Additionally, the president and Handgun Control support bills introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) that would impose prison sentences on gun owners whose guns are stolen and then used to inflict injuries in crimes, suicides and accidents. (S. 1971, H.R. 4370, 105th Congress) Such legislation seeks to extend to the rest of the country the essence of the law in the crime-plagued District of Columbia that prohibits a person from keeping a lawfully-owned firearm assembled and loaded for protection even in his or her home.

From the beginning, many high-crime states and cities have been exempt from Brady

  • States are exempt from Brady`s 5-day waiting period if they require law enforcement officials to conduct records checks to verify that prospective retail handgun purchaser
Print
Email
Share