House approves Brady gun control bill



WASHINGTON (AP)—Responding to public fear of street crime, the House approved the Brady bill Wednesday requiring a five-day wait and a background check on people who want to buy handguns.

The House voted 238-189 for the bill and sent it to the Senate, where a far-reaching crime bill was stalled over an amendment to ban assault-style weapons.

The Brady bill’s namesake, ex-press secretary James Brady who was shot during a 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan, declared himself ‘‘euphoric’‘ at the outcome—even though the measure contains a National Rifle Association-backed five-year deadline.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., would set the five-year limit for developing a computerized, nationwide system of instant background checks and a phaseout of the waiting period. It was approved 235-198. Gun control proponents characterized it as an attempt to gut Brady’s effectiveness.

One of the amendment’s supporters, Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said:

‘‘If we can check credit card purchases instantaneously, if we can have our policemen check driving records instantaneously, then certainly we can check criminal histories instantaneously.’‘

The House also approved Brady two years ago only to see it fail after being attached to a larger crime bill blocked by Senate Republicans. This time, it is being kept separate in both houses in the hope the Senate will send it to President Clinton, who has promised to sign it.

Sarah Brady, who joined her husband in a ‘‘thumbs up’‘ for photographers, said there will be a tough fight getting the bill through the Senate. They have campaigned for the bill for a decade.

During the debate, Rep. Lucien Blackwell, D-Pa., noted that his West Philadelphia neighborhood has hundreds of deaths each year from pistols.

‘‘We need to stop these thugs from getting these guns rapidly, and if we pass the Brady bill, we will do that,’‘ Blackwell said. ‘‘What is wrong with waiting five days to get a pistol? What is wrong with that?’‘

Rep. Butler Derrick, D-S.C., said a waiting period of five working days represents less time ‘‘than most people have to wait for their dry cleaning.’‘

Rep. Mike Synar, D-Okla., called the amendment phasing out the NRA-backed amendment phasing out the waiting period ‘‘a very clever attempt to derail the five-day waiting period.’‘

‘‘Using this amendment’s common sense,’‘ Synar said, ‘‘one would quit giving CPR (resuscitation) to a heart attack victim after five minutes.’‘

Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who as chairman of the House Judiciary crime subcommittee battled for the Brady bill for months, said the passage of the Gekas amendment left Brady bill supporters with 85 percent of what they wanted.

He said House members who voted for the amendment did so ‘‘to throw the NRA a bone.’‘

‘‘I’m just glad they didn’t give them the whole skeleton,’‘ he said. ‘‘Anyone who thinks the NRA is dead or out of the ring is unfortunately mistaken.’‘

The five-year deadline was imposed on a provision already in this year’s Brady bill which said that when background information is sufficiently computerized and instant checks are possible, the waiting period would end, and instant checks would be required on purchases of both handguns and long guns.

The House rejected by a 175-257 vote another NRA-backed amendment offered by Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla. It would have pre-empted all state or local laws that require waiting periods once the instant checks took effect. Opponents had called it a ‘‘killer amendment’‘ that would ‘‘eviscerate Brady.’‘

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive officer, tried to put the most positive light on the vote, calling it ‘‘a victory’‘ that the waiting-period aspect would be phased out in favor of instant checks after five years, thanks to the Gekas amendment. The organization embraced instant checks in 1988 as an alternative to waiting periods, which it still opposes.

But that was not enough to get the NRA to endorse the measure, as spokesman Bill McIntyre looked with some hope toward the Senate.

‘‘We’ve been down this road before,’‘ McIntyre said. ‘‘The next step is the Senate, where we were two years ago, and nothing passed.’‘