Brady Law Fails to Reduce Murders
UPI Tuesday, August 2, 2000
|NEW YORK – The most comprehensive study of the Brady Act finds the law has not cut handgun killings, researchers reported
Tuesday. In fact, the law's main result is increased violence against women, another researcher has found.
"We weren't able to see any effect on the homicide rate," study author Philip Cook told UPI Tuesday.
"In retrospect we would not expect Brady to be effective against violent crime. Increasingly homicides are committed by career criminals who do not get their guns in legal ways," said the Duke University researcher.
Cook and his co-author, Jens Ludwig of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, projected that in 1996 there were eight fewer homicides as a result of 44,000 people being prevented from buying a handgun in the 32 states where Brady created waiting periods and background checks.
This figure is "too small to be identified with state-level vital statistics," the researchers say.
Their study of the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The two scientists compared gun crime and death rates in the 32 states in which the Brady gun-buying restrictions apply and compared them with the 18 states that already had laws equivalent to or stricter than Brady.
The researchers assumed that states in which Brady added rules would show how effective the legislation was. But reality intruded.
Cook said that when he and Ludwig looked at statistics from 1985 to 1997 they "found very little difference in trends in the two types of states."
The National Rifle Association hailed the study.
"We don't always agree with the American Medical Association, but in this case common sense prevailed,'' James Jay Baker, head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The study found that gun suicide rates for people 55 and older fell about 6 percent in the 32 states that added gun restrictions – but detected no overall reduction in suicides. Cook speculated that people who want to end their own lives probably will find a way.
Ludwig speculated that the "enormous loophole" caused by the sale of firearms by one private citizen to another and at gun shows might have been closed a bit by the law. Sales not handled by licensed firearms dealers are estimated to make up to 40 percent of the U.S. gun market.
Another gun violence researcher, Ed McGarrell of the Hudson Institute's Crime Control Policy Division, in Indianapolis, admitted to UPI that the "Brady law restrictions would only be on law-abiding citizens. ... It makes it inconvenient to get a gun."
McGarrell still believes the law and its background checks "are a good thing."
Brady Law's Main Effect: More Rapes and Attacks on Women
Robert Lott, senior research scholar at the School of Law at Yale University, isn't so upbeat.
He told UPI his own research on Brady has found the law's major effect is a 3 percent jump in rapes and assaults on women, especially in states that previously had few if any restrictive gun laws.
"It makes it difficult for someone to get a gun for self-defense," says Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime."
Criminal justice expert Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis said he could not draw strong conclusions about Brady's effect on homicide rates because of the study's lack of evidence about secondary markets. In a JAMA editorial, he called for more research.