The Brady Bill And Its Passage

4000 words - 16 pages

IntroductionThe legislative process in the United States Congress shows us an interesting drama inwhich a bill becomes a law through compromises made by diverse and sometimes conflictinginterests in this country. There have been many controversial bills passed by Congress, butamong all, I have taken a particular interest in the passage of the Brady bill. When the Bradydebate was in full swing in Congress about three years ago, I was still back in my country,Japan, where the possession of guns is strictly restricted by laws. While watching televisionnews reports on the Brady debate, I wondered what was making it so hard for this gun controlbill to pass in this gun violence ridden country. In this paper, I will trace the bill's seven yearhistory in Congress, which I hope will reveal how partisan politics played a crucial role in theBrady bill's passage in this policy making branch.The Brady bill took its name from Jim Brady, the former press secretary of PresidentReagan, who was shot in the head and partially paralyzed in the assassination attempt on thepresident in 1981. This bill was about a waiting period on handgun purchases allowing police tocheck the backgrounds of the prospective buyers to make sure that guns are not sold toconvicted felons or to those who are mentally unstable. Even the proponents of the bill agreedthat the effect of the bill on curbing the gun violence might be minimal considering the fact that themajority of guns used for criminal purposes were purchased through illegal dealers. However,the Brady Bill represented the first major gun control legislation passed by Congress for morethan 20 years, and it meant a significant victory for gun control advocates in their way towardeven stricter gun control legislation in the future.Gun Rights vs. Gun ControlThe Brady bill, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, was first introduced byEdward F. Feighan (D-OH) in the House of the100th Congress as HR975 on February 4,1987. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee, and the debate began. Throughout thedebate on the Brady bill, there was always a clear partisan split; most of the Democrats, exceptfor those from the Southern states, supported the bill while most of the Republicans were in theopposition. For example, when the first introduced Brady bill lost to an amendment by BillMcCollum (R-FL) for a study of an instant check system (228-182), most Republicans votedfor the McCollum amendment (127 for and 45 against) while the majority of the Democratsvoted against it (127 for and 137 against). The exception was the Southern Democrats most ofwhom joined the Republicans to vote for the amendment. This party division was not sosurprising, however, considering the huge campaign contributions made by the chief gun lobby,the National Rifle Association (NRA), directed mostly to the Republicans, and the exception ofthe Southern Democrats could be explained by the gun right supportive nature of theirconstituents. In the 1992 election...

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