Brady Act Has Little To Do With Reducing Crime, Report Shows
By Cheryl K. Chumley
CNS Staff Writer
(CNSNews.com) - One of the
Clinton Administration's most aggressive legislative efforts, the gun-restricting Brady
Act, has produced almost no affect on the overall murder and suicide rates, according to a
recent medical journal report, but Attorney General Janet Reno says more study is needed
to judge the true impact of the law.
"We're willing to say that we need to do more study here," Reno was quoted as
saying in an Associated Press article Friday. "We are getting better at evaluating
what works and what doesn't work. We're getting better at identifying crime problems, but
we must continue to do everything we can to make it as exact as we can."
But the findings were no surprise to "More Guns, Less Crime" author John Lott,
who cites statistics to prove that the states with the least restrictions on handguns are
those with the lowest firearms crime rates.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was signed into law in November 1993 and took
effect in February 1994. It provided for a waiting period before a handgun could be
purchased and implemented a national background check system for all potential buyers.
A report from Dr. Jens Ludwig of Georgetown University and Dr. Philip J. Cook of Duke
University, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that in
the states included in the study, only suicides decreased slightly in a certain age group
because of Brady Act legislation but homicide rates were not affected.
"Based on the assumption that the greatest reductions in fatal violence would be
within states that were required to institute waiting periods and background checks,
implementation of the Brady Act appears to have been associated with reductions in the
firearm suicide rate for persons aged 55 years or older but not with reductions in
homicide rates or overall suicide rates," the conclusion section of the JAMA report
Cato Institute policy analyst David B. Kopel, in an article in Friday's Wall Street
Journal, cited another study, conducted by the Police Foundation, which found that as of
1996, Americans owned 230 million guns, a record number. Kopel also reported that firearm
deaths continue to decline, and have in fact "fallen to the lowest level since the
Lott, whose second edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" was released just recently
and includes information detailing "the impact of the Brady Act from 1996 on,"
said it was no revelation to discover that statistics revealing deaths due to firearms
were lowest in states with the least restrictions on weapons possession.
"The bottom line is guns save lives," said Lott, who is currently a senior
research scholar at the School of Law, Yale University. "They also make it easier to
Lott's published findings differ from the JAMA report in one significant way, he said: His
rates the affect of the Brady Act on murder while the JAMA report analyzes homicide.
"Homicide includes if you use a gun in self defense, like if somebody broke into your
house, and you killed them," Lott said. "I would argue that if you care about
crime, the best way to do that would be to look at crime, which is murder."
Another report released by the National Center for Health Statistics would seem to prove
the Brady Act's effectiveness in that its statistics indicate deaths among children and
teens due to firearms has decreased "sharply," but Lott said those numbers could
be credited to "natural" reasons. The NCHS report detailed 10 percent fewer
children under the age of 20 died in 1998 from firearms than in 1997, and 35 percent fewer
died by gunfire in 1998 than in 1994.
"I have looked at that," Lott said, in answer to whether the Brady Act
contributed to the decrease in deaths. "But there's just a natural drop we've been
observing over this last century. I don't think it has anything to do with laws. In fact,
there [are] lots of things going on. Incomes are rising, education changes, and I think
people have more to lose by making mistakes [with storage of weapons in reach of children]
than they did 100 years ago."