CONGRESS NEVER did get around to answering the pleas of police and other constituents for passage of the Brady bill requiring a waiting period for handgun sales -- thanks in no small way to House Speaker Tom Foley, who did not press for action. Though head counts in the House indicated that a majority of the members supported the Brady bill -- echoing the views of 95 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup Poll released last month -- the measure never got to the House floor.
But if anybody on Capitol Hill wants more evidence of public opinion, here's some just in from last week's voting in Florida: the ballot question that won the biggest vote -- 84 percent approval -- was an amendment to the state constitution requiring a three-working-day cooling off period for purchases of handguns. While a national waiting period would be even more effective, people in Florida had more than enough reason to act. Florida is considered by most law enforcement authorities to be the top "source state" for illegal handgun trafficking up the coast.
The NRA is always quick to note on this point that illegal handguns are trafficked by people who break laws anyway, so why have laws that bother other people -- but that, as almost everyone who voted in Florida knows, is no reason not to try to check and block handgun sales to people with criminal records. It just so happens that these laws do bag some criminals, as authorities in Virginia, for example, can attest.
In any event, the Brady bill does not affect any owner or purchaser of firearms from buying whatever is lawfully on sale. All it does is prevent the quickie sales of handguns to any criminal who pulls over to make a buy. Jim and Sarah Brady and law enforcement leaders and victims of killings will be back on Capitol Hill next year, of course, to try again. In the meantime -- every single day -- another 60 Americans will die in handgun fire, some of which just might have been avoided. Will the speaker get the House to act?