The House neared a showdown vote on a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases Wednesday as President Bush renewed his threat to veto any gun restrictions unless they are part of a comprehensive crime-fighting bill.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley said he believed advocates of the Brady Bill, a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases, had the edge over an alternative backed by the National Rifle Association, and Bush's veto threat was not a factor."If the president wants to take the responsibility of vetoing the Brady bill, that's up to him," said Foley, himself a gun-control opponent. Congress would enact other crime legislation this summer, he said.
Bush, at a morning news conference, reiterated that he will only back restrictions on guns as part of his larger package of crime-fighting measures. "We are opposed to them alone," he said.
Bush favors making it easier for prosecutors to use evidence obtained without warrants, relaxing the habeas corpus rules and expanding the application of the death penalty to more federal crimes.
"Some of the suggestions he's made are controversial," said Foley. "Just going on and multiplying federal offenses that carry the death penalty does very little to deter serious crime in the United States. It's mostly symbolic."
Bush and Foley commented as both NRA and gun-control advocates were hunting for the handful of votes that will decide whether the House will ditch the Brady bill in favor of the NRA plan to allow instant computer checks of criminal records of gun purchasers.
"If I were going to bet all my money - which isn't much - I wouldn't know what to do. It's that close," Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a leading Brady bill advocate, said Tuesday.
The Brady bill is named for former White House press secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head in a 1981 attack on then-President Reagan.
The Bradys on Tuesday attended a rally on the Capitol grounds in advance of the vote.