Waiting Periods Could Be The Next Focus Of Gun Control Advocates

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The murders of eight people in Georgia are being used by gun control activists and anti-gun politicians as justification for their agenda, event though the gun control bills approved by the U.S. House wouldn’t have stopped this crime, since the accused killer was legally eligible to purchase a firearm. Using the murders as justification for a ban on modern sporting rifles doesn’t really fit either, since the suspect allegedly used a handgun in the commission of his crimes.

But because the suspect (whose name won’t be mentioned by me) purchased that firearm the same day that the killings took place, anti-gun advocates think they’ve the tie-in that they need: waiting periods.

The Associated Press had a big feature over the weekend that uses the killings in Georgia as a springboard to talk about how “few” states have waiting periods, and why gun control advocates believe they’re a great idea.

If Georgia had required him to wait before getting a gun, lawmakers and advocates say, he might not have acted on his impulse.

“It’s really quick. You walk in, fill out the paperwork, get your background check and walk out with a gun,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “If you’re in a state of crisis, personal crisis, you can do a lot of harm fairly quickly.”

Gun control advocates say mandating a window of even a couple of days between the purchase of a gun and taking possession can give more time for background checks and create a “cooling off” period for people considering harming themselves or someone else. Studies suggest that waiting periods may help bring down firearm suicide rates by up to 11% and gun homicides by about 17%, according to the Giffords Center.

Georgia Democrats plan to introduce legislation that would require people to wait five days between buying a gun and getting it, said Rep. David Wilkerson, who is minority whip in the state House.

“I think a waiting period just makes sense,” he said.

Actually, according to the citation from Giffords, it’s a single study that “suggests” waiting periods “may” help to reduce suicides and homicides. In other words, the science is decidedly unsettled.

To be fair, a waiting period may indeed stop some impulsive acts of violence, but it’s going to be impossible to prove how many crimes weren’t committed as the result of a law forbidding gun purchasers from taking immediate possession of their firearm. It’s also going to be tough to measure how those waiting periods may impact the ability of gun purchasers to act in self-defense, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if waiting periods can prevent bad actors from using a gun, then they can also inhibit law abiding citizens from using a firearm in self-defense too.

Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Assn., oppose waiting periods. The group points to 2018 federal firearm-tracing data that shows the average time between first retail sale of a gun and involvement in a crime was nearly nine years. They also argue that waiting periods create a delay for people buying legally, while leaving illegal weapons transfers unaffected.

“A right delayed is a right denied,” Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said.

We’re seeing that play out in Illinois right now, where the Illinois State Police are taking, on average, more than 100 days to process Firearm Owner ID card applications, which are required in order to legally possess a firearm in the state. Even though there’s now a de facto waiting period of 100+ days in Illinois, criminals are still getting and using guns with impunity. It’s the folks who are trying to abide by the law who are actually caught up in the long wait times.

The waiting period bill introduced in Georgia isn’t likely to see much movement before the end of the legislative session in just a few weeks, but don’t be surprised if gun control activists make similar legislation their next priority in Congress and use the murders in Georgia as justification for further restrictions on the rights of American citizens.

 

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