Jim and Sarah Brady and their colleagues at Handgun Control Inc. held a celebratory post-signing party after President Clinton put his signature on what is now the "Brady Law." Some critics say it doesn't go far enough and won't do much good. Its supporters admit it is a very modest effort. Even Sarah Brady says more far-reaching gun control laws are needed to prevent violence. But two thoughts needed to be added to that:
(1) A nationwide Brady Law requiring a waiting period and police background check before buying a handgun will reduce violence. Though it might not keep guns out of the hands of all criminals, a recent study of states with their own "Little Brady bills" (including Maryland) showed over 47,000 would-be purchasers were turned down. With a national system in place, those people would find it much more difficult than before to get a handgun.
(2) The Brady Law will reduce handgun violence by people with no prior criminal record. That is because it serves as a cooling-off period. No one knows for sure how many individuals angered to the point of violence get over it in a few days, and either don't go through with the purchase or don't use the gun the way they would have had they been able to purchase it in a rage.
The victory celebration in Washington yesterday was laced not only with pride of accomplishment but with optimism for future successes. Having defeated the National Rifle Association in Congress in a major way, gun control advocates can now seek more stringent controls with confidence.
Republicans in Congress have traditionally led the opposition to gun control efforts. It is significant that large minorities of Republicans -- 31 percent in the House, 36 percent in the Senate -- voted for "Brady." Even more encouraging is the solid endorsement by the first two Republicans in a generation to be elected mayors of the two largest cities, Richard Riordan of Los Angeles and Rudolph Giuliani of New York. Mr. Giuliani has called for such crime-fighting approaches as requiring gun owners to be tested and licensed on a regular basis.
Those and similar restrictions on handguns and some semiautomatic weapons should be the next targets for Handgun Control Inc. and its ally, Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, in Washington and in Annapolis.