Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford have endorsed a bill pending in Congress requiring a seven-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns, a supporter of the measure said Sunday.
"Every living past President has endorsed the Brady bill," Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
Former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon had previously said they supported the measure, named for former White House Press Secretary James S. Brady, who was permanently disabled during an attempt to assassinate Reagan 10 years ago.
Schumer's office released copies of nearly identical letters from Carter and Ford. Ford's letter was dated April 18 and Carter's April 26. They differed only in minor details of wording.
Both said: "I know the waiting period legislation has been modified and refined over the years as legitimate concerns have been raised, and that (the Brady measure) reflects the years of serious debate and discussion accorded the bill."
The bill is expected to be debated in the House during the week beginning May 6.
"It's neck and neck," Schumer said. "I would predict if the vote were held today, it would win or lose by no more than four votes."
The bill is designed to allow time to check whether a gun purchaser has a police record.
Wayne La Pierre, spokesman for the National Rifle Assn., which opposes the bill, argued that it would be ineffective and would infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms.
The NRA is backing a bill calling for a background check at the time of sale, which backers of the Brady bill say would not work because most states do not have the computer systems to provide the information. The Administration prefers the NRA-backed bill.