Archive for Friday, May 31, 1991

LOCAL OFFICERS BACK GUN-CONTROL BILL

May 31, 1991

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Some local law enforcement officers support the "Brady bill," a national gun-control measure that would help keep guns away from felons, fugitives and the mentally ill, but are somewhat reserved in their praise of the measure.

Although some officials see the bill as an effective handgun control measure that will keep handguns out of the wrong people's hands, they are concerned about enforcement and say it may be hard to tell whether the law will have an effect on crime or suicides involving handguns.

"The bottom line is that I'm supportive of anything that gives us gun control so we don't run into individuals who buy a gun, then go out and use it to commit a crime or intimidate somebody or something," Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said.

ANDERSON SAID enforcement officials "have our hands full" with a current law banning the possession of firearms by convicted felons.

Lawrence police Sgt. Kevin Harmon said this morning that from an administrative standpoint, he's pleased with the bill.

Currently, he said, there's a three-day waiting period for handguns in Lawrence. Adding four days to the waiting period would give police more time to check on a prospective handgun buyer.

But the police department, he said, has taken no position on the merits of the bill.

"I don't think it's the police department's position to decide whether it's a good or bad bill," he said. "That's up to the citizens and the legislators to decide. If it's something that the citizens and their legislators deem appropriate, we will administer it."

Harmon said it's impossible to gauge the effects of the three-day waiting period, which was enacted after a Kansas University student bought a gun and then used it to commit suicide. He said there's no way of knowing whether the law deterred anyone from buying a gun and committing suicide.

Kansas University police Maj. Ralph Oliver said KU police also have not taken a position on the bill. Personally, he said, he favors the bill for the same reason as Anderson.

THE U.S. HOUSE of Representatives passed the bill May 8, and it could come to the Senate floor as early as next month. It would require handgun buyers to present identification to a gun dealer, who would notify local police of the prospective sale. If no objection were raised in seven days, the sale would go through.

The legislation is named after James S. Brady, a former White House press secretary wounded in the assassination attempt on President Reagan 10 years ago by John W. Hinckley Jr. Brady is now confined to a wheelchair.

The bill would be the most sweeping federal gun-control legislation since 1968, when Congress voted to ban interstate sales of handguns in the wake of the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

President Bush has promised to veto the bill unless it is incorporated into an overall crime bill that includes provisions such as an expansion of the federal death penalty and a limitation on federal court petitions by prisoners on death row.

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