Myth No. 9: Required waiting periods would prevent some of the most vicious crimes.

One of the most popular forms of gun control is a mandatory waiting period. For example, if the Brady bill (named after Ronald Reagan's press secretary, James Brady) were law, all U.S. citizens would have to wait seven days before purchasing a handgun. Do such laws make sense?

To generate support for waiting-period laws, proponents frequently refer to the Brady case and to other vicious crimes committed with guns. [See the sidebar on "How Waiting Periods Would Have Affected High-Profile Crimes."] Unfortunately, the cure has nothing to do with the disease. The Brady bill would not have saved Jim Brady. Nor would it have prevented the Killeen, Texas, massacre or the Stockton, Calif., massacre. In each case, the predator still could have legally obtained the weapon he used, because he had no previous felony record.

Gun control proponents argue that, during the waiting period, officials would have the opportunity to check out the criminal records of potential purchasers. A waiting period does give them that opportunity. But as a practical matter, most criminal records are not kept where they are accessible to gun dealers, police departments or anyone else. In general, there is no national reporting of criminal records and no computer records system that can be tapped into.

"The Brady bill would not have saved Jim Brady."

Without providing funding, Congress has asked the U.S. Justice Department to bring its records up to date and maintain them in easy-access form on computers. A nationwide database system would permit gun dealers to instantly check for a purchaser's criminal record before selling a gun. Of course, if instant record checks were possible, there would be no need for a waiting period.

© 1996 NCPA