Three surveys show that a year after the Brady law was passed a significant number of criminals have been stopped from buying handguns by the required background checks.
The surveys found that up to 45,000 convicted felons, or 2 to 3.5 percent of all applicants for handguns, were turned down after the reviews.
The studies were conducted by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, CBS News and the International Association of Chiefs of Police in conjunction with Handgun Control Inc. Handgun Control is headed by Sarah Brady, the wife of James Brady, the White House press secretary who was wounded in the assassination attempt in 1981 against President Ronald Reagan and for whom the Brady law is named.
“I believe the Brady bill has reduced the number of crimes those felons would have committed,” said District Attorney J.Tom Morgan of DeKalb County, Ga., which includes part of Atlanta. “It shows criminals do go to stores to buy guns, and they obviously don’t buy handguns to go duck hunting.”
Morgan acknowledged that there is no direct measure of the effects on stopping crime. Experts are sharply divided on whether the legislation has reduced violent crime.
“I don’t think the test of the Brady bill is whether felons have been stopped from buying guns,” James Q. Wilson, professor of management at the University of California at Los Angeles, said. “The test is whether felons have been stopped from buying guns and then killing people with them. And that we don’t know.”
Bill Bridgewater, executive director of the National Alliance of Stocking Gun Dealers, a trade group in Havelock, N.C., said: “The 40,000 people who were stopped were only stopped at that store at that time. They weren’t arrested. So all they had to do was go out on the street corner at midnight and pay more to get a gun.”
The law, which went into effect on Feb. 28, 1994, calls for five-day waiting periods and background checks before handgun purchases. Several categories of people are denied permission to buy guns, including convicted felons, fugitives from justice, illegal aliens, juveniles and the mentally ill.