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16 Alaska Just. F. 1 (1999-2000)

handle is hein.journals/aljufor16 and id is 1 raw text is: ALASKA JUSTICE FORUM
A Publication of the                                                     Alaska Justice
Justice Center                                                      Statistical Analysis Unit
Spring 1999               UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE                Vol. 16, No. 1

The Brady Act in Alaska

Cassie Atwell
Gun control-especially keeping hand-
guns out of the wrong hands-has been a
reoccurring theme across America in the last
three decades. In the wake of school
shootings in places like Alaska, Kentucky,
Arkansas, and most recently Colorado and
Georgia, the public has expressed outrage
over the perceived inability of law enforce-
ment to keep guns out of the hands of po-
tential killers. Polls and surveys all show
that growing numbers of the public feel that
tougher gun laws are the most effective way
to curb the violence, not just in schools but
in general.
Will tougher laws solve the problem? In
order to ascertain the extent to which gun
laws need to be strengthened, it is neces-
sary to look at how the current laws are ad-
ministered. The Brady Handgun Violence
Protection Act (18 U.S.C. 922) was enacted
after the assassination attempt on President
Reagan, in which his press secretary, James
Brady, was shot and paralyzed. The assas-
sination attempt riveted public attention in
1981, but it had been preceded by years of
growing public perception of the dangers
associated with handguns. Finally enacted
in 1994, as an addition to the Gun Control
Act of 1964, the Brady Act expressly pro-
hibits the sale of handguns to individuals
who fall under certain classifications.
By keeping guns out of the hands of
criminals and others deemed to be poten-
tially dangerous, the Brady Act was to have
*An opinion on the Brady Act's
implementation (page 2).
 The Bureau of Justice Statistics discusses
capital punishment in 1997 (page 3).
 An international perspective on the death
penalty (page 4).

been a major step toward reducing gun vio-
lence in America. The act set out specific
conditions under which an individual could
purchase a handgun. The individual must
be a resident of the state in which the hand-
gun is being purchased and must be at least
eighteen years of age. The individual can-
not fall under any of nine prohibited catego-
0 those who are under indictment for or
have been convicted of a felony
 fugitives from justice
 unlawful users of or those addicted to
a controlled substance
0 those adjudicated as mental defectives
or committed to a mental institution
 illegal aliens
 those who have dishonorable dis-
charges from the military
0 those who have renounced their
United States citizenship
0 those who are subject to a restraining
0 those who have been convicted of a
misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Under the act, law enforcement has five
days to complete a background check after
an individual makes formal application to
purchase a handgun.
But how well does the act really work?
Administration of an act such as this is de-
pends on the data available and the meth-
ods of enforcement. To assess whether the
Brady Act is working in Alaska it is neces-
sary to look at two areas-training of the
individuals responsible for compiling back-
ground checks on applicants and the results
of applicant denials.
In August 1998, the Justice Center be-
gan a project to determine the effectiveness
of the provisions of the Brady Act in Alaska.
To accomplish this, we divided the project
into two parts. The first was to determine if
the procedures and definitions used by each
Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in
the state were uniform when determining the
eligibility of each applicant for handgun

purchase and if the procedures met the de-
mands of the Brady Act. The second part
looked at denied applicants from the An-
chorage Police Department to determine the
reasons for denial and the effectiveness of
the background check in keeping handguns
out of the hands of prohibited persons. (An-
chorage was the only city that had an ad-
equate number of denied applications
available for analysis). Given the low popu-
lation numbers of both CLEOs and denied
applications, we are unable to do any statis-
tical comparisons. However, a description
of what we found shows areas that may re-
quire further study.
To determine the effectiveness of train-
ing and the overall knowledge of the Brady
Act, we designed and conducted a telephone
survey with all 38 Chief Law Enforcement
Officers (CLEO) across the state. Chief Law
Enforcement Officers are the authorities re-
sponsible for making the decision to approve
or deny an application-in Alaska, usually
the police chief in the nearest local hub com-
munity or the Alaska State Trooper in a
given region. Each officer was asked to have
all training materials handy during the in-
terview. The telephone survey was divided
into three sections: training, knowledge of
Brady requirements, and opinions. Infor-
mation was also collected on each inter-
viewee: age, race, rank, certifications (if
any), type of department, number of years
in law enforcement, number of years pro-
cessing background checks, average num-
ber of applications processed per month and
length of time in the community.
In looking at training we were chiefly
concerned with how much guidance was
received prior to and after the commence-
ment of Brady; how adequate the training
was for each officer; and what training ma-
terials were provided to guide the process.
Uniformity of procedures and definitions
Please see Brady in Alaska, page 6

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