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Brady Bill Passes First Key Test: Subcommittee Vote

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`IT'S a thumbs-up day,'' said a smiling Rep. Charles Schumer, demonstrating with his right thumb. ``A big thumbs-up day,'' corrected a smiling Jim Brady, returning the gesture.

Minutes earlier the House subcommittee on crime and criminal justice, chaired by Mr. Schumer, a New York Democrat, had earned its thumbs-up signs by passing this year's major gun-control bill. It is named for former Reagan press secretary Brady, wounded in the assassination attempt on Mr. Reagan a decade ago.

Subcommittee approval was the first formal step this year for the bill along the always-perilous road any gun-control measure must follow to congressional enactment. Later this month comes full House Judiciary Committee consideration, with approval considered virtually certain. After that it's on to the full House, which did not vote on the issue in the last Congress.

In the past two weeks the dynamics of the gun-control issue have shifted markedly to the benefit of the bill, with Reagan's surprising endorsement of it, after a decade of opposition to any gun control. The former president now calls the measure's seven-day waiting period for a background check of would-be handgun purchasers ``just plain common sense.''

Through aides President Bush then indicated he, too, might be willing to drop his opposition to the measure provided Congress approved the main Bush anticrime measure, the Comprehensive Violent Crime Act. The day before the subcommittee vote he publicly reiterated this position through a letter from Attorney General Dick Thornburgh to chairman Schumer. (The letter also cited three specific administration concerns about the legislation.)

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