Constitutional rights notwithstanding, there seems little logic in the National Rifle Association's staunch opposition to a seven-day waiting period for purchasing a handgun.

There is bipartisan support in Congress for the "Brady bill," which would require gun dealers to impose the waiting period and supply police with information about all potential handgun purchasers. In theory, the waiting period would allow police to do a background check to see whether buyers have any past felony convictions.Polls show more than 90 percent public support for the bill, which is also lauded by the majority of police agencies nationwide.

And now former President Reagan, the NRA's most famous life member, has broken ranks with the organization and endorsed a nationwide seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases.

Yet opponents, including the Justice Department and Attorney General Dick Thornburg, argue there is no proof that the waiting period keeps handguns from criminals - or halts crimes committed with handguns. Rather, they favor upgrading outdated computerized criminal files on the state and federal level.

That's all well and fine, but it has nothing to do with who is able to purchase a handgun on the spot - unless such upgrading is combined with some type of background check as is proposed in the Brady bill.

As an alternate measure, some suggest an immediate background check while the customer waits. But it's simply unrealistic to believe that - even when police computers are updated - gun dealers will be able to call the nearest police station and ask for an instantaneous check on a customer who wants to buy a gun right now.

Police response time to crimes in progress now lags behind the ideal - so it's hard to believe that doing a background check on a potential gun buyer would rank as a pressing police priority.

Opponents also argue that the majority of people who buy handguns are law-abiding citizens - a fact that doesn't change if buyers have to wait a week to purchase a gun.

What is changed by the waiting period is the pool of purchasers. Virginia's background check barred 673 prospective gun buyers who were ineligible to buy a firearm, and New Jersey has caught more than 15,000 convicted felons attempting to buy guns.

The Second Amendment says the "right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The Brady bill doesn't infringe on the rights of "the people" as a law-abiding body, but would allow greater freedom to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for Americans - some 23,000 in 1990 - who may otherwise be killed by handguns.