Brady Gun Law Barely Impacts Homicide Rate

ByABC News
August 1, 2000, 3:03 PM

C H I C A G O, Aug 2 -- The 1994 Brady law, which required handgun sellers to make background checks and institute waiting periods for buyers, has had little impact on U.S. homicide and suicide rates, researchers said Tuesday.

However, the waiting period that has since been phased out did play a role in reducing the suicide rate for older Americans, a segment of the adult population more prone to suicide but less likely to own guns, their report said.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, named for former presidential press secretary James Brady, established a national system of background checks and waiting periods for those buying handguns from federally licensed firearms dealers. The law was named for former presidential press secretary James Brady, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

President Clinton has frequently hailed the law for blocking thousands of convicted felons from acquiring weapons that might have been used to commit new crimes.

Researchers Jens Ludwig of Georgetown University and Philip Cook of Duke University compared data on homicide and suicide rates from 1985 through 1997, examining shifts since the Brady law was enacted in 1994.

Eighteen U.S. states had similar gun control measures already in place when the legislation was passed but the law created new restrictions in 32 other states, which they classified as treatment states.

Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates, the researchers wrote in this weeks Journal of the American Medical Association.

In particular, we find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 treatment states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states, they wrote.

The study took account of the decline in U.S. homicide and suicide rates for victims of all ages before the law went into effect.