Win One for the Gipper

March 31, 1991

Ronald Reagan's announcement of his strong support for the Brady Bill should help the measure finally become law. The objectors in the past have been for the most part conservatives, Republicans and representatives with largely rural districts. With the National Rifle Association's best known member now supporting the bill, many naysayers of the past surely will come around.

We know they will if the Bush administration also admits what the president, the attorney general and others know to be true -- that this bill doesn't outlaw anything and doesn't interfere with any citizen's right to a gun -- unless he or she is already prohibited by law to have a firearm, by reason of criminal record, drug dependency or mental health record.

The Brady Bill -- named after Reagan press secretary James Brady, who was seriously wounded in the assassination attempt on the president -- merely requires dealers to send the name and address of would-be purchasers to the local police for a background check. If nothing is heard back in seven days, the sale goes through.

Mr. Reagan's public endorsement -- and it was a ringing one, nothing tentative about it -- comes after years of recalcitrance. It is a testament to common sense and to James and Sarah Brady's relentless personal lobbying. They have also swung around several Republicans who opposed the bill in the House in 1988. A majority of the Republican members on the House

Judiciary Committee voted for the bill last year.

The bill should do better this time in the Maryland House delegation. It got five of the state's eight votes in 1988. Roy Dyson was defeated by Wayne Gilchrest, who indicates he has an open mind; Helen Bentley and Beverly Byron should decide that if Mr. Reagan can support it, so can they.

A spokesman for President Bush says he might support the bill if congressional Democrats support him on his crime package. That's ridiculous. In the first place, this is not the sort of legislation one should use as a bargaining chip. In the second place, Democrats and the administration are in agreement or very close to it on the main elements of an omnibus crime bill.

This is one time when President Bush has a chance to speak up and win one for the Gipper.

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