Brady Gun Law in Effect, Giving Results in Hours

THE federal Brady law went into effect Feb. 28, requiring a waiting period of five business days and a background check before a person can buy a handgun. Results were immediate.

``We had approximately 30 calls during the first three hours [after the law went into effect] and three of those were nonapprovals,'' said Gary Buckley, agent for Colorado's Bureau of Investigation.

Those refused the right to buy guns included a fugitive and a man convicted of sexual assault. Colorado previously did not require background checks. The law applies in 32 states that did not have adequate minimum standards. Some 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, already have acceptable requirements.

The logistics of it all stymied some gun dealers. Jack L. Mullennex, owner of Gun Mart in Elkins, W.Va., said he has instructions on how to comply but doesn't know who to call for the background checks. ``I hear that the state police will have to do it, but nothing's been announced,'' he said.

The mechanism varies. Some gun dealers call a state agency toll-free, others have to pay, some will fax or mail in forms.

Some states, including Colorado and South Carolina, promise instant checks. The alternative is for gun shops to wait five days for a check by the chief law enforcement official in the area where the buyer lives.

The system hinges on cooperation. In Louisiana, that's a problem, state police Sgt. Bobby Guidroz said. ``We only get one out of four felony convictions from local jurisdictions,'' and so ``our records are simply not accurate.'' Mr. Guidroz said.

The law, however, authorizes federal spending of $200 million a year to help states update or improve computerization of criminal records. Once a national system is operational, the backgrounds of both handgun and long-gun buyers would be checked.

Around the country, gun dealers say sales boomed in the days before the law went into effect.

Michael E. Ridgway, a prosecutor in Yankton, S.D., said, ``It's a very important psychological step. What has to come from that, though, is tighter controls on automatic and semiautomatic weapons.'' Chamber nixes Clinton health plan

THE US Chamber of Commerce, completing a 180-degree turn on forcing employers to pay for health insurance, says it now flatly opposes any employer mandate and cannot even support the goal of universal coverage.

Leaders of the 220,000-member organization had argued last year it was time for all employers to step up to the plate and share with their workers the responsibility of buying health insurance.

But the chamber, under heavy pressure from small and medium-sized businesses and some Republican members of Congress, on Feb. 28 completed its retreat from an employer mandate in any form.

The chamber's board of directors endorsed a list of other health reforms, including making insurance portable and creating voluntary purchasing pools.

The White House shrugged off this latest business rebuff, saying the chamber's stance was not really new. US offers N. Korea negotiation carrot

THE State Department says the United States is ready to resume negotiations with North Korea if international inspection of the communist nation's nuclear facilities proceeds on schedule.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Hubbard refused Feb. 28 to say when negotiations would resume but he would not dispute a report from South Korea that the date was March 21.

He said an announcement on negotiations also would include a decision on a scheduled US-South Korean military exercise. It has been widely speculated that if the inspections take place the exercise will be canceled.

North Korea has given visas to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, due to arrive in Pyongyang March 1.

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