brady bill

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Brady Law Falsehoods

The Brady law has received much credit for the country's rapidly dropping crime rate. Yet with the Supreme Court striking down the laws background check requirements, it faces its ultimate test. If gun control advocates are correct, the court's decision will unleash a new crime wave.

The Justice Department continually releases "new" studies crediting the law with reducing crime. Actually, the downward crime trend started in 1991, well before the Brady law became effective in March 1994. My research shows that this decline is in great measure because of higher arrest rates and more states allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns.

Others estimate that the Brady bill had a much smaller effect on gun sales than the 100,000 rejections its proponents claim. Last year the General Accounting Office reported that initial rejections numbered about 60,000, and more than half were for purely technical reasons, mostly paperwork errors that eventually were corrected. A much smaller number of rejections, 3,000, were due to violent crime convictions--and presumably many of these people just proceeded to buy a gun on the street.

Brady law backers have focused almost exclusively on the value of background checks, the one part of the law that the Supreme Court specifically struck down. Yet there never was much controversy over this issue: When Congress debated the law, no one, not even the National Rifle Assn., opposed background checks. The dispute was over a five-day waiting period versus an "instant check." Ultimately, the success of background checks and waiting periods must be judged by their impact on crime. To seriously evaluate their impacts, however, one must recognize that other legal changes also occurred.

For example, during 1995 and 1996, 10 more states adopted nondiscretionary concealed handgun laws. In the belief that concealed handguns deter crime, 31 states now grant permits automatically to citizens who have no significant criminal records or histories of major mental illness. In all 31 states, more people now carry legally concealed handguns.

Considerable evidence supports the notion that permitted handguns deter criminals. Polls show that there are at least 760,000 and possibly as many as 3.6 million defensive uses of guns per year. In 98% of the cases, people simply brandish weapons to stop attacks. This is further reflected in the different rates of "hot burglaries," where a resident is at home when a criminal strikes. In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun control laws, almost half of all burglaries are "hot.

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