First week's reports on Brady law look favorable

March 05, 1994|By Victoria White | Victoria White,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- In the first week of the new federal waiting period for handgun buyers, a convicted rapist in Kentucky, a murder suspect in Dallas and numerous felons have been blocked from buying guns.

The Brady law went into effect Monday, the culmination of a seven-year effort by gun-control advocates to persuade Congress to pass legislation requiring a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases to allow states to determine whether a prospective buyer has a criminal record or a history of mental instability.

No statistics are available on how many gun purchases have been delayed or blocked nationally. But in the law's first week, anecdotal evidence suggests that the law is doing what its supporters hoped it would.

On the first day, law enforcement officials in Reno, Nev., discovered six felons who were trying to redeem guns from pawn shops, and Colorado police arrested two felons with outstanding warrants.

"We expected results from Brady, but we're very pleased that we got these kinds of results the first day out of the box," said Susan McCarron, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Maryland has had a seven-day handgun waiting period and background check since 1966, so the state is not directly affected by the new law.

Maryland police say they have prevented thousands of criminals from buying handguns. In 1992, 31,405 people applied to buy handguns in Maryland; police rejected 431, according to state records.

Donna Winkle, supervisor of the Kentucky firearms application unit, said yesterday that her state denied 29 handgun applications this week, out of 1,022 applications for handgun purchases. Among those prevented from buying guns, she said, were people with records of armed robbery, burglary, drug possession, rape, grand larceny and carrying a concealed weapon.

In Ohio, 16 people were found ineligible to buy handguns, said Judy Barbao, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office. Eleven were felons; five were considered to be fugitives because there were warrants for their arrest.

Critics of the Brady law, however, remain committed to overturning it.

Richard Gardiner, legislative counsel for the National Rifle Association, said three sheriffs have filed federal lawsuits challenging the law. The suits contend that the law violates the Constitution by imposing a "vague" requirement on the sheriffs and for using state officials to administer a federal program.

The NRA does not object to the background-check requirement of the new law, only the waiting period. "Background checks can be done instantaneously," Mr. Gardiner said.

Arizona Gov. Fife Symington said this week that he would appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Brady law unconstitutional for delegating federal regulatory enforcement responsibilities to the states.

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