A new year is always welcome. But it should be with particular joy that we bid farewell to 1990, a year when killings by handguns reached a new high. It was also a year when a new dimension was added to the handgun violence story. Because 1990 was the year when we started to add large numbers of children to the list of handgun victims. Children, even infants, were killed in their schools or caught in the crossfire on the streets where they play.
In 1990, we lost some 23,000 Americans to handgun violence - an epidemic of killing in peacetime that is unprecedented. That is why on the first day of the new Congress, I will reintroduce the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, legislation better know as the Brady Bill.My legislation provides for a seven-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns. During this time, a gun dealer would have to notify and to provide information for local police to conduct a background check on a person who wants to buy a gun.
States that do employ either a waiting period of a background check have had success. Virginia's background check barred 673 prospective gun buyers who were ineligible to buy a firearm. New Jersey has caught more than 15,000 convicted felons attempting to buy guns. While opponents of the Brady Bill argue that criminals are too smart to go up against a waiting period, the evidence proves them wrong.
However, even states that do have a waiting period fall victim to the gun law loopholes of neighboring states. That's why a national waiting period makes sense. In New York City, 90 percent of the guns used in the commission of crimes last year were not purchased in New York state. Most of these guns were traced back to states such as Florida, Texas and Ohio - states with lax gun laws. We need to close these loopholes.
Since the day I first introduced the Brady Bill, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has waged a massive campaign to block the legislation. During consideration of the bill in 1988, NRA supporters succeeded in substituting a yearlong "study" to be conducted by the Department of Justice that was to determine how best to prevent felons from purchasing firearms. The attorney general concluded that an instant computer check system would be the most effective, but that it would be five years before such a system was technologically feasible and a few more years before it would be affordable. Obviously, we can't wait that long before taking action.
A national waiting period is the best way to fill the void in the meantime.