Reagan Says He Supports Waiting Period for Handgun PurchasesW. DALE NELSON , Associated Press
Mar. 28, 1991 3:00 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former President Reagan, whose administration opposed gun control legislation, announced today that he supports the so-called Brady bill, requiring a seven-day waiting period for firearms purchases.
''It's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to buy a handgun,'' Reagan said in a speech at George Washington University.
Reagan later met with President Bush, who has opposed the bill. Asked about the gun control issue, Bush said, ''We are going to discuss that. I want to talk to him and get his views on that.''
Reagan, in a speech at George Washington University, said, ''It's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to buy a handgun.''
Reagan, when asked if he thought Bush was moving toward joining him in support of the bill, said he did not think it would be proper to give advice to the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Reagan, 80, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, was invited to the university to receive an honorary degree of doctor of public service and to have a reunion with doctors and nurses who treated him at GWU Hospital after an attempt on his life 10 years ago Saturday.
James Brady, his press secretary at the time, was permanently disabled in the shooting. Brady and his wife, Sarah, who sat in a front row seat at the degree ceremony, have become principal supporters of the waiting period bill.
Reagan told the audience, ''You do know that I am a member of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and my position on the right to bear arms is well known.
''But I want you to know something else, and I am going to say it in clear, unmistakable language: I support the Brady bill and I urge the Congress to enact it without further delay. With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases.''
The NRA opposes the Brady bill. Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said Reagan ''has an understandable loyalty to James Brady.''
In a question-and-answer session with reporters before the convocation, Reagan said he always has supported the waiting-period concept although his administration opposed other gun control legislation.
''Maybe there was some misunderstanding because of a lot of other things that were being talked about that I didn't agree with,'' he said. ''The Constitution protects the right of a citizen to bear arms, but when Sarah Brady came forward with this, what is now called the Brady bill, she knows that I have supported it. I think it is badly needed.''
The White House said today that President Bush is willing to discuss the Brady proposal with Congress. White House spokesman Roman Popadiuk said Attorney General Dick Thornburgh will enter talks with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to work out the problems Bush has with the waiting-period legislation.
''We don't support the bill in its current form, but a lot may depend on what the Congress does with the president's crime bill. We will be working with the hill,'' he said.
Bush's crime proposals would allow broader use of the death penalty for certain capital crimes, and make it easier for prosecutors and law enforcement personnel to bring suspects to trial by easing restrictions on evidence gathering.
Reagan was shot and critically wounded by John Hinckley Jr. on March 30, 1981, from the Washington Hilton Hotel after making a speech.
Reagan noted today that Hinckley had purchased the gun in another state and crossed the line into the District of Columbia.
The gun used in the Reagan shooting was purchased by Hinckley in a Dallas pawnshop.
Hinckley himself has said a gun-purchase waiting period could have kept him from shooting Reagan. If such a requirement had been in effect, he said in August 1989, ''I believe I would not have gone forward with the effort to shoot the president.'' Hinckley is confined to a mental hospital; he made the statement in a court document.
Rep. Edward F. Feighan, D-0hio, who introduced the Brady Bill for the third time on Jan. 3, praised Reagan's support of the measure, saying it ''signals the end of the NRA's ability to block anti-criminal handgun control measures through intimidation.''
''The Brady Bill would have passed this year even without President Reagan's endorsement,'' Feighan said. ''With it, our victory is assured.''
Last year, the measure got through the House Judiciary Committee but never came to the floor of the House for a vote. The bill lost by about 40 votes in the House in 1988. The full Senate has never voted on it.
Today's ceremony provided an opportunity for Reaan to meet with Denise Sullivan, a nurse who comforted him in the hospital recovery room shortly after he was shot.
In an interview Wednesday, Ms. Sullivan said she had not read Reagan's recent memoirs, in which he wrote:
''I was lying on the gurney only half-conscious when I realized that someone was holding my hand. It was a soft, feminine hand. I felt it come up and touch mine and then hold on tight to it. It gave me a wonderful feeling. Even now I find it difficult to explain how reassuring, how wonderful, it felt.''
But, she said, ''That's part of my everyday practice. I try to do that with patients as they are waking up from anesthesia, recognizing that they have concerns and that is a strange and stressful place.''
When he recovered consciousness, he wrote, ''I started asking, 'Who's holding my hand? ... Who's holding my hand?' When I didn't hear any response, I said, 'Does Nancy know about us?'''
Actually, Ms. Sullivan said, ''He wrote a note to me that said that. When I was taking care of him he was unable to speak.''