July 2, 2015 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 4Comment

Following last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, most county clerks here in Texas began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. But many of those happy couples couldn’t immediately tie-the-knot. Texas requires couples to wait 72-hours after obtaining their license before they can say “I do.”* About half the States have such waiting periods which range from 24 hours to six days. One source describes the wait time as providing:

“a cooling-off period for the couple to determine if they truly wish to be married.”

So if a cooling off period is a good idea for matrimony, I’m stumped why there’s no waiting period in most States to purchase a gun.

I don’t come from a gun-toting family so buying a gun is foreign to me. So while newly-licensed couples in Texas were waiting their 72 hours, I decided to explore purchasing a gun.

On Sunday, I went to the local chain sporting goods store. It has a hefty selection of firearms. I inquired about buying a handgun as a birthday gift for my husband. The salesman asked how much I wanted to spend and then pulled from the display case his recommendations. He said a 9-mm handgun would be ideal for a first-time gun owner and showed me a Glock, SIG Sauer, and Smith & Wesson (comes with two 16-round clips!).

“What do I need to do to buy it?” I asked. The salesman looked puzzled. I restated “Do I need a license or a background check?”

“No, no you don’t need a license. You just need a driver’s license or other ID for the background check,” he said.

“Oh, ok. How long will that take, the background check?” I asked.

“About 5, just 5 or 10 minutes. We call a number and it goes real quick,” he said.

“OK. Does it matter that the background check is on me, but I’m going to give the gun to my husband? Does he need to get a background check?” I asked.

“Nope.” he said.

“If I give it to him and it’s not the gun he wants, can he exchange it?” I asked.

“No sorry. Firearms can’t be returned,” he explained.

It’s sort of baffling to me. Being married is associated with better health (e.g., here, hereherehere)  and articulated in the American Public Health Association’s amicus curiae brief on Obergefell v. Hodges) but in Texas and many other States it requires a license, a fee, and a waiting period. (In Texas, the marriage license fee is not an insignificant $82.)

In contrast, something that is recognized as a public health problem—-death and injury by firearms (e.g., here, here, here)—there’s no waiting period to purchase a gun. That’s true in Texas and 38 other states.

If engaged couples need a license and a “cooling off” period, shouldn’t gun purchasers?


*The waiting period in Texas can by waived for active military or those who obtain a waiver from either a County Court at Law or District Judge.

4 thoughts on “Waiting periods: licenses for marriage vs guns

  1. I think the demand by law-abiding citizens for guns and ammo will continue to grow. And I hope changes are made to ease such acquisition (and the keeping and bearing, thereof).

    One possible bright side to the wait periods for gay “marriage” licenses is that such wait periods will probably decrease over time.
    I say this because I have a feeling the number of gay “marriages” performed will decline steadily. In 2016 the number of these “marriages” performed will be less than in 2015, and in 2017 will be lower still.

  2. #1 – for “I think” please substitute “I wish”. A classic case of thinking the world is the way you want it to be, and let reality be hanged.

  3. One possible bright side to the wait periods for gay “marriage” licenses is that such wait periods will probably decrease over time.
    I say this because I have a feeling….

    Sharp thinking as always, S.N. You must be more frustrated than usual now that this has been turned off.

    I have a better prediction, though: Come 2017, you’re still going to be just another angry white dude who is spurned by the opposite sex.

  4. There’s something to be said for this. Indeed, waiting periods could provide a cooling-off period for buyers who, though having no red flags on a background check, were secretly contemplating hot-blooded murder. If even a few such people would be discouraged by a waiting period, that would unquestionably outweigh relatively minor inconveniences for the far greater number of law-abiding buyers. (The flip side is that a few people trying to buy guns for self-defense in the face of imminent threat from stalkers or abusers could be out of luck.)

    That said, if you are among those Americans who see politics in binary terms, you might also want to take into consideration how it could affect the proliferation of increasingly outrageous waiting periods for abortion. I can imagine the rhetoric now: “If you have to wait 72 hours to buy a 28-gauge shotgun to take your son on a bird-hunting trip, shouldn’t you have to wait 72 hours to think about it before Killing Your Baybee?”

    As it happens, I don’t recall that my marriage license required a cooling-off period, but because the state was ruled by morons it did require an HIV test – which, if you were not well-to-do enough to pay $200 back when that was real money, required that someone meet the artificial standards required to (yah!) DONATE BLOOD to get a test. Or if you couldn’t get through that hoop, you were free to just keep having sex for free.

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