The National Rifle Association in its simplest form is the largest gun club in the world. The organization was founded in 1871 by former Union Army officers to encourage sport shooting in order to have a fine tuned militia in case of emergency. The Union officers believed that a well regulated militia was integral for the security of a free state. It is an organization that opposes gun control, it believes in the individual defense of the uses of firearms, and it is interested in all aspects of shooting sports.1
Today, the organization stands with approximately 3.4 million members. Within the NRA, there are four major organs. The Institute for Legislative Action (is the lobbying arm), the political Victory Fund (which is a political action committee), the Civil Rights Legal Defense Fund (deals with scholarly research and legal developments), and the Grass Roots Division (which specializes in raising support through grass roots methods). As a membership organization, the NRA's directions is set by voting members. The direction of the policies are carried out by a 75 member board that is geographically distributed. The Board of Directors are elected by secret ballot.2
The Brady Act was approved by Congress in November of 1993 and was then signed into law by President Clinton later in the month. The act was originally named for anti gun lobbyist Sarah Brady, and not for former press secretary Jim Brady. It was through Jim Brady's support and the media coverage that linked his name to the act. The act requires that there be a waiting period of five state government business days at the time an individual applies to purchase a handgun from a federal firearm license. During the five day wait, the local sheriff or police chief must "make a reasonable effort" to see if the purchaser is prohibited from owning a handgun. The police official may approve the sale before the five day period only if the record check has been completed or if he believes the purchaser needs a handgun immediately to protect himself or his family.3
Presently, the Clinton administration isn't complying with the Brady Act. The act requires that within 60 months of enactment, the Attorney General must establish a national instant criminal background check system that allows federal firearms licensees to have access through some type of electronic method. The reason for the delay lies with the fact that U.S. Circuit Courts have split on whether the Brady Act violates the 10th amendment of the Constitution by allowing law enforcement agencies to conduct criminal records checks in association with the purchase of a handgun.4 It also may involve the access of medical records since some states require that hospitals report mental patients to the state, which may put them in the same database along with felons.5
Why Brady Fails
The Brady Bill is a failure and does not prevent criminals from obtaining handguns. After the enactment of the law for a period of 17 months, only 7 individuals were convicted of illegal attempts to purchase a handgun. By comparison, according to the Virginia State Police during the period between November 1989 and June 1996, the state's instant check system facilitated the arrest of 2,479 persons. Both the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Department of Justice have done studies that only show 7% of armed career criminals obtain firearms from legally licensed shops. The FBI reported in 1993 and 1994 that homicide rates had dropped 5%. Attorney General Janet Reno credited the reduction to community policing, while criminologists attributed the trend to maturing gang members who are now less willing to reside turf disputes violently. Neither attributed the decline to the Brady Bill.6
A National Association of Chiefs of Police Poll was released in May of this year that stated 85% of the police chiefs believe that the Brady Bill hasn't stopped...