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Grieving Father Pleads for Gun Controls

March 21, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The distraught father of a Yale University student recently shot to death on campus asked Congress on Thursday ″How many tragedies does it take...″ before people are prohibited from buying handguns without a police background check.

Testifying to a House Judiciary subcommittee, Edward M. Prince took bitter note of the argument that the Second Amendment precludes gun control legislation. The amendment, he observed, says ″A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.″

His voice suddenly faltering, tears streaming from his cheeks, Prince asked everyone in the packed hearing room: ″Was that a well-regulated militia that killed my son?″

″There is only one infringement in this instance - namely, the infringement of Christian Prince’s right to life, liberty and property,″ said the father. Christian Haley Prince, 19, was killed Feb. 16 in an attempted robbery as he walked home from a party.

The elder Prince, a Washington patent attorney, testified in behalf of the Brady Bill, which would require a week-long waiting period, allowing time for check of police records, before dealers could deliver handguns to buyers.

″How many tragedies does it take to change political priorities, or can good common sense put individual rights in proper perspective?″ he asked.

Several members of the crime subcommittee as well as the bill’s namesake, former presidential press secretary James S. Brady, expressed optimism the bill would pass this year.

″I think the winds of change are blowing,″ said Brady, who was shot in the head March 30, 1981, by John Hinckley in the assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan. Brady, who nearly died, remains seriously disabled.

Chairman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted the full House would consider the measure in May, saying, ″The time for the Brady Bill has come.″

As Prince struggled to read his testimony before the silent room, members of Congress as well as the audience fought to control their own emotions.

″If you still must bear arms, it is clear to me that the minimal regulations imposed by this act upon the right to acquire a handgun in the first instance are not an infringement upon any individual’s rights to keep and bear arms,″ Prince said. ″I do not believe that any responsible American, who truly believes he or she needs a handgun for protection or for sport could not wait seven days to purchase that handgun.″

Earlier, a Justice Department official had told the panel that the administration continues to oppose the bill. Paul McNulty, acting director of the Justice Department’s Office of Policy Development, said ″We think it’s ineffective. To use a harsher word, it’s useless.″

″In our view, the use of severe federal penalties is the most direct form of gun control since it targets the violent offender,″ McNulty said. ″... Unfortunately, limitations on the lawful availability to acquire a firearm will not stop them.″

He said the administration is ″not convinced lives would be saved″ if the Brady Bill were passed.

McNulty noted that the department is spending tens of millions of dollars on efforts to develop a sophisticated federal-state system for making point- of-sale background checks. But that prospect will first require the tedious process of computerizing criminal files, and supporters of the Brady bill say it is needed as an interim measure.

Brady said his freedom ″was taken away by a deranged young man who purchased his handgun over the counter without a wait and without a check.

″It will be 10 years ago next week,″ Brady said. ″Since that day, over 200,000 men, women and children have been killed in America’s gun war. More than Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf combined. And the war goes on.″

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