Gun control supporters admit they were "outgunned" by the National Rifle Association but say they will be well-armed the next time they ask Congress to adopt a seven-day waiting period for buying pistols.
The House voted 228-182 Thursday to eliminate the proposed waiting period from a major anti-drug bill, turning aside appeals from police officers who said the measure was needed to keep weapons out of the wrong hands.Utah's three representatives, Democrat Wayne Owens and Republicans James V. Hansen and Howard C. Nielson, voted to eliminate the waiting period.
Final passage of the House drug bill, which attempts to attack both the supply and demand side of the narcotics problem, is expected next week. The Senate is expected to consider similar legislation later this month.
Supporters of the gun control provision conceded the House's election-year vote doomed the prospects for a seven-day waiting period in the Senate bill, but they vowed to reintroduce the measure in the next session of Congress.
"It's a bitter disappointment," said Rep. Edward Feighan, D-Ohio, sponsor of the gun control language in the original bill. "I do think we were outgunned by the forces of the National Rifle Association. I'm quite confident we can win this vote at some future date."
The deleted language would have ordered a week delay between the purchase and delivery of a pistol, giving authorities time to check any buyer's background.
Instead of that provision, the House adopted a Republican-backed alternative Thursday requiring the Justice Department to develop a new program to identify only felons who try to buy the guns.
"The sad thing is that after this vote, fugitives and felons can still walk in and purchase handguns, no questions asked," said Sarah Brady, the wife of President Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, who was critically wounded during the attempt on his boss's life March 30, 1981.
"Today is disappointing and discouraging," Mrs. Brady said, reflecting on the provision that became known as the Brady Amendment in honor of her fight for the waiting period.
Criticizing Congress for bowing to the powerful gun lobby, she concluded, "It bothers me tremendously that this Congress chose to support a special interest group. Congress chose not to listen to law enforcement."
More than 100 uniformed police officers came to Capitol Hill to lobby for the gun control measure, but the NRA waged a $4 million countercampaign to get the provision stripped from the bill.
The sponsor of the Republican alternative said he pushed for removal of the waiting period because he thinks it would be ineffective and would wind up penalizing law-abiding citizens who wish to buy guns.
"All of us agree we want to keep handguns out of the hands of felons. The question is how to do it," said Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla.