Dispatches > The Buzz

Missing the target


Issue: "Locking up the big guns," Aug. 12, 2000

Anti-gun control people quip that gun

control means hitting your target. Suppose the target gun-control laws aim for is a reduction in violence and crime. Bull's eye? Not exactly, according to a new study, which concluded that murder and suicide rates did not drop any faster in states that had to toughen their laws to comply with the Brady Bill.

The 1994 Brady Act required licensed dealers to perform background checks and observe a five-day waiting period before selling handguns. In 1998, instant background checks replaced the waiting period requirement.

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Did it work? The lead authors of the study, Georgetown University policy analyst Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook of Duke University, examined national statistics from 1985 through 1997. They found that, except for the fact that fewer people 55 and older used guns to kill themselves after the act took effect, not much is different.

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Kelly Whitley said the study "proves what the NRA has been saying all along. Legislation like the Brady Act ... has no impact on the criminal misuse of firearms." Gun-control advocates said the study is not an appropriate measure of the success or failure of the Brady Act. The study received an animated response from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which claimed the test was inadequate.


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