THEY HELD congressional hearings last week on a bill which would require a seven-day waiting period before a person could purchase a gun. Witnesses were divided into two groups: Those who had either been wounded by a gun, or had had a relative killed by one, and were in favor of the bill; and National Rifle Association lobbyists and Justice Department officials who were against it.
I've never understood why anyone would object to waiting seven days for a firearm, so I sought guidance from Milton Hammmer, a pistol aficionado who once told me at a picnic, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will shoot to death anyone who tries to stop you from saying it."
I asked Milton, "What is your objection to delaying the purchase of a gun for seven days?"
"It's too long. Have you ever had to hold your breath for seven days for something you truly wanted?"
"I know that a week is a lifetime -- but maybe you could do something useful in the meantime."
"Community service. How about going into the slums and help the young people?"
"I'm not going into the slums. They might shoot me."
"Ah, there you have it. Why do they have guns in slums? They have them because the shooters don't have to wait seven days '' to buy one. The law they're trying to pass is not aimed at honest, law-abiding Americans like yourself -- it is to weed out people who purchase them to do bodily harm to others."
Milton replied, "I once had to wait seven days for an electric train set when I was a kid. I vomited every morning. The Constitution says I can buy a firearm any time I want to. That's because the Founding Fathers said that when someone wanted a gun, they should get it now."
"They just want the seven days to see if people have a criminal record, or if they are crazy. That's not asking a lot."
"So you say. But pretty soon they'll be checking on citizens who are prone to causing gun accidents. Do you think a seven-day check on John Wilkes Booth would have prevented him from shooting Lincoln?"
"No, but John Hinckley might have been prevented from shooting President Reagan."
"Well, tell me this," Milton said. "How come if the seven-day registration bill is so good for the country, President Bush is against it?"
"President Bush owes a lot to the National Rifle Association, and he doesn't want to offend them. They could do him a lot of damage in the election year if he starts supporting any gun control bills in this country. Bush wants a kinder and gentler America, but he also wants a tough America, and it cannot be accomplished if people have to wait seven days for delivery of a weapon to defend themselves."
Milton said, "I'm with him. No one in this country should be required to wait a week to shoot a duck."
"You're going to shoot a duck with a pistol?"
"If it was going to break into your house, wouldn't you?"