The Brady bill: Is it civilization we hear coming?

November 29, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

To use a metaphor the NRA boys can understand, the Brady bill was just a first shot, an opening volley.

There's more to come. Much more.

Now we'll try another, more civilized metaphor. Brady is like an opening argument. It's an agreement of terms. By passing the bill, we say we now agree that guns in the hands of the wrong people cause death and that we have to try to do something about the crisis.

Soon, someday anyway, we'll agree that guns in the hands of even the "right" people cause death.

Eventually, guns will go the way of cigarettes. The users will be marginalized. Gun owners will crowd together in designated areas, although probably not restrooms, and complain how unfair the rest of us are.

It's coming. In the end, civilization, which becomes more tenuous with each drive-by shooting, will demand it.

Ever emboldened, the gun-control folks continue to go after handguns and after assault rifles and after the other weapons designed primarily to kill people. Then they'll go after more.

You hear the rumblings now. Winchester has voluntarily pulled a particularly deadly bullet from the market because of public pressure.

All the polls showed tremendous support for the Brady bill. So overwhelming were the numbers -- we're talking 80-plus percent -- that the NRA toadies in the House and Senate, who lap up that lobby money as if it were mother's milk instead of children's blood, had to let the bill become law.

What's heartening about the support is that most people have little idea of the details in Brady. They just knew it was gun control, and that we have to have it in some form. As it happens, the bill is not particularly tough. Nor will it be particularly effective. In fact, Brady will probably save fewer lives than know-when-to-say-when commercials.

Brady requires a five-business-day waiting period and for the dealers to check whether the gun-buyer is legally eligible. A nationwide computer system for background checks will be put in place.

And yet, criminals will still find ways to get guns. With any luck, people will demand tougher laws.

First of all, we could hope for more stringent licensing practices. Why shouldn't gun owners have to pass some sort of test to show they're capable of handling a firearm? We require drivers ++ to prove their worthiness in a car.

Then we can continue to press limits on the numbers and kinds of guns people can keep.

I bet you can already hear the arguments, including the $l phony-baloney one about the Second Amendment, which is an archaic rule set down to protect the right to form militias. Nobody worried about gun control in the 1790s.

Then the NRA boys fall back on the rights of hunters, as if anyone wants to take away somebody's right to blow away defenseless animals. But you don't need an Uzi to bring down a rabbit.

And nobody wants to take away the target shooters' guns, either -- even the ones capable of mass destruction. But maybe the guns would have to be checked at a secure facility, much as the cowboys had to check their weapons in old Dodge City. By the way, old Dodge City was much safer, even in its wildest days, than your typical urban center of today.

What we need is guns off the streets. We need guns out of the houses, too. Every available study shows that a gun kept in your house is much more likely to be used against someone who lives in the house than against an intruder.

No gun law will put an end to crime or turn us into a kinder, gentler nation. But gun control can make it harder to kill people.

By now, we should realize that the argument is not whether guns kill people or people kill people. The truth is, people with guns kill people. You've seen the numbers. In 1990, there were 35,000 guns deaths, including 12,000 homicides.

One gun-control group plans to erect what it calls a Death Clock in Times Square on New Year's Eve. This clock will keep track of the gun deaths, the people for whom time has run out.

People keep buying guns because they're afraid. The NRA is now targeting women as gun-buyers, preying on that fear. The NRA tells people they must arm themselves to protect themselves.

The gun-control people have to make the same argument, but in a different way: that the more guns there are, the more dangerous it is for everyone. It is an argument that eventually has to win.

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