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, here, here, here) 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.