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Updated law makes buying a gun faster

By Jon Zeluff
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 30, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Today, the temporary provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 will be changed to permanent provisions. The biggest and most positive step will be the replacement of the federally-imposed five-day waiting period to purchase a handgun with a new National Instant Check System. This will apply to all purchases, both handguns and rifles.

NICS is a national database containing records of people who are not eligible to buy a firearm. Under the old version of the Brady law, the five-day waiting period was established so state authorities could conduct a criminal background check on the purchaser. NICS will now allow authorities to check not only criminal records, but also service records and other citizenship information that might bar the individual from purchasing a firearm.

This is a significant step in the right direction to actually preventing crime and prosecuting criminals, rather than simply talking about doing so.

From 1993 until now, the General Accounting Office found that only seven individuals were convicted under Brady of attempting to purchase a firearm illegally. Three of these were sentenced to 12 to 24 months in prison, while the other four were placed on probation. Federal law states that the punishment for attempting to illegally purchase a firearm is 10 years in prison.

Virginia has been using its own Instant Check system for almost 10 years now. The Virginia State Police report that between November 1989 and June 1997 the state's Instant Check system led to the arrest of 3,234 individuals, including 456 wanted people. On the second day of Virginia's Instant Check, an arrest was made leading to the conviction of three individuals for a murder in New Jersey.

The five-day waiting period gives the few criminals who actually attempt to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer five days to escape.

The instant check system gives them virtually no time at all.

In June, Tanya K. Metaska, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, had this to say about the failure of Brady's waiting period:

"When the vast majority of criminals report getting their guns from theft or the black market, do we really believe that a hardened felon walks into a gun store, is denied, walks away under Brady, but doesn't find an alternative way to get a gun?"

It has long been known, even before Brady was passed, that waiting periods failed to stop violent hand gun crime (which, by the way, is less than 30 percent of all violent crime committed with any weapon).

Anti-gun researcher David McDowell concluded that "waiting periods have no influence on either gun homicides or gun suicides, " in his article "Preventative Effects of Firearm

Regulations on Injury Mortality," prepared for the 1993 meeting of the

American Society of Criminology.

Sarah Brady herself has admitted in the March 1991 issue of the Washingtonian that a waiting period "is not a panacea. It's not going to stop crimes of passion or drug-related crime."

What NICS will not do is prevent the sale of firearms to individuals who have the legal right to own them. It should speed the purchase process considerably for all those who have previously had to endure the federally-imposed five-day waiting period. States may still impose an additional waiting period if they so desire, but it will no longer be federally-mandated. California, for instance, has a 15 day waiting period on all firearms purchases, both retail and private.

Also, those who were exempt from the Brady waiting period all along (mostly those of us with a valid state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon) will also continue to be exempt from NICS.

Here in Arizona, after seeing the tremendous success of Virginia's Instant Check system, we implemented our own such system. As a result, purchasers of firearms in this state should not notice any difference when they go to buy their next gun under NICS.

The bottom line is that President Clinton and Brady have not delivered on their promise to "put criminals behind bars." They have been successful only in making the lives of honest, law-abiding citizens more difficult (something the Clinton administration seems to do quite well).

If the overwhelming success of state-level Instant Check systems is any indication, then NICS will deliver results, not promises followed by lies.

More importantly, law-abiding citizens will no longer have to wait five days to take possession of a firearm that they are entitled to have "without infringement," as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Jon Zeluff is an aerospace and mechanical engineering senior.