Those who support a national law requiring a seven-day waiting period, or even a three-day waiting period, before purchasing a gun say that such legislation would prevent convicted felons from buying a gun from a gun dealer.

I certainly support that meritorious goal, but can a waiting period really accomplish this objective, and can just as much be accomplished with a simple telephone check with no waiting period?During a proposed waiting period, a firearms dealer would notify the local police or sheriff of the purchaser's desire, and this law enforcement official would attempt to determine whether the purchaser is disqualified from owning the gun because of a felony conviction.

The determination made by the law enforcement official will, in almost every case, depend on information found in the files of the National Criminal Information Center at the FBI. This search can be conducted in a few minutes by way of a simple telecommunication hookup at the police station or the sheriff's office.

So, why would we have a lengthy waiting period? No different or better check can be done in seven days or even three weeks than can be done in seven minutes by phone.

Unfortunately, the reliability of any check is highly questionable, according to the attorney general's study of this issue last year. The purchaser could be lying about his identity or the criminal records could be incomplete with regard to the purchaser.

It is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of handgun purchasers have no criminal record. In fact, from a 1986 report issued from the Department of Justice, over 80 percent of 800 incarcerated felons said they obtained their weapons, the guns used in their crimes, in a way other than from a gun dealer.

My proposal to screen buyers and identify felons would resolve the issue of accuracy by requiring the states to include a fingerprint on drivers' licenses, and require gun dealers to install equipment to match a purchaser's fingerprint to the one on his driver's license and then go through local police for a telephone records check.

This method removes the inherent flaw of background checks. In addition, it would give incentives to states to improve their criminal justice records.

If we can accomplish something in seven minutes rather than seven days, why should we make law-abiding citizens wait even one day to own a firearm?