SENATE majority leader George Mitchell (D) of Maine says he ``came very close'' to getting the National Rifle Association (NRA) to support the Brady gun-control legislation that was signed into law this week.
``But they didn't do so, and I told them I thought they were making a mistake, that they would be better off politically and substantively to support the legislation, because I felt it would pass anyway,'' Senator Mitchell told reporters at a Monitor lunch Wednesday.
As originally introduced in 1987, the Brady bill provided only for a waiting period - at that time, seven days - for handgun purchases. Mitchell opposed that bill, he said, because it was ``not well crafted'' and ``would not achieve its purpose.'' Meanwhile, the NRA had proposed as an alternative the introduction of an ``instant check'' system of criminal records to make sure guns weren't sold to people barred from buying them.
So 2 1/2 years ago, Mitchell says, he sat down with the Bradys -
James Brady, the presidential spokesman who was wounded in the assassination attempt on President Reagan, and his wife, Sarah - and the NRA and combined their two proposals. That package, a waiting period (set ultimately at five days) and an eventual computerized instant-check system, is now law, and will take effect in six months.
Joe Phillips, an NRA lobbyist, agrees that his organization was close to supporting the Brady bill that included the instant-check provision. If Congress had agreed to a provision allowing the bill to preempt any state laws that call for stricter limits on handguns, such as California's 15-day waiting period, the NRA would have backed Brady, Mr. Phillips says. ``I'm not going to tell you I heard him say he would [back preemption],'' he says, ``but it was my understanding that he did.''