James Brady, Reagan’s Press Secretary and Leader in Fight for Gun Control, Dies at Age 73

It has been 33 years since James Brady, then Press Secretary to President Ronald Reagan, was shot during an attempt on the president’s life. Now, Brady has passed away at the age of 73, after over three decades of advocating for more reasonable and effective gun control laws.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Jim ‘Bear’ Brady has passed away after a series of health issues,” Brady’s family said in a statement, according to ABCNews.com. “Jim Brady’s zest for life was apparent to all who knew him, and despite his injuries and the pain he endured every day, he used his humor, wit and charm to bring smiles to others and make the world a better place.”

Brady was just one of four people shot in 1981 when John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Reagan. The shooting left him paralyzed and in a wheel chair for the remainder of his life. Rather than disappear from public life, Brady and his wife Sarah began campaigning for handgun restrictions, a quest that eventually became the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. That lobbying effort resulted in the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the Brady Bill, which went into effect in 1994.

The Brady bill that passed in 1993 “requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm may be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer, subject to certain exceptions. If no additional state restrictions exist, firearms may be transferred to potential buyers after they are approved within the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is maintained by the FBI,” according to Politico. A previous version of the bill had been introduced in Congress but never passed due to opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Two decades after the bill had been signed into law, however, despite laws on background checks, gun violence has been on the rise, and current background check requirements have been found to be lacking. Just like prior to the Brady Bill’s passage, it’s the NRA that continues to stand in the way of better regulations. A 2013 bill that would expand background checks to all guns failed in the Senate despite a majority voting in favor, because it could not receive a full 60 votes to overcome a filibuster blocking it from a majority vote.

In fact, as the Washington Post writes, most bills being written post Brady regarding guns have been about expanding, not regulating, who can get them. “The New York Times did a study in December 2013 analyzing gun policy since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School the previous year, a year when 71 other children were killed by gun violence,” wrote Jaime Fuller in February. “Around the country, 1,500 state gun bills were proposed, 109 became law, and 70 of those new laws loosened existing gun legislation. According to a Gallup poll from January 30, 2014, 55 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with existing gun policy.”

That trend is continuing even this year, as states like Missouri not only expand who can get guns, but where these guns can be carried, as well. This year Missouri proposed a law to not only allow teachers to have handguns in schools, but to not tell parents which teachers were actually armed in their childrens’ classrooms. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the legislation.

Decades after the near murder of James Brady, we can still see that not only is everyday gun violence increasing across the country, but that reasonable legislation to curb it continues to be thwarted, whether it is better background checks, refusal to stop those who have been accused of domestic violence or who have received restraining orders from owning guns, regulations on the types of guns and ammunition that people can purchase, or where guns can be carried. We use band-aids to keep our children safe from those who misuse their weapons rather than just prevent those people from obtaining weapons in the first place.

Maybe today we can talk about real, reasonable restrictions. Let that be our legacy to James Brady.

Photo Credit: breaking news via Flickr

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Genoveva M M.
Genoveva M G.about a year ago


Deborah W.
Deborah W.about a year ago

Desparate times call for desparate measures. Yet even featuring a prominent dead Republican can't get the desired consensus. Hang it up, total control will never happen.

James Craigie
James Craigieabout a year ago

I hope this can be used to make further progress in regulating gun use/ownership.

Jenny Sejansky
Jenny Sejanskyabout a year ago

James Brady was a brave and caring man. RIP and thank you for accomplishing what you could for the safety of our people; who, truly, need to be protected from themselves.
The GOP should be proud to claim Brady as one of their own; look what they've allowed the NRA to do instead.
We still have a brave warrior in the fight for sensible gun control- Rep. Gabby Giffords from Arizona. Does anyone remember her? She and her husband, Mark Kelly, have been working tirelessly for a couple of years now for stronger gun laws. They are also responsible gun owners, themselves.
Gabby, like Brady, is a pillar of strength and grace for this cause. Let us remember Mr. Brady by helping Ms. Gifford's continued fight for the same cause.
Lastly, only the gun loons would claim that stronger regulations would claim all rights to own guns. This is ignorance. Plain and simple.

Will Rogers
Will Rogersabout a year ago

What does it take, for an American politician to consider gun reform? A shot in the head apparently. He wasn't asking for gun reform before he was shot! He was not a hero, he was a powerful concerned victim.

Chad Anderson
Chad Andersonabout a year ago

There was a time when people's lives came before an absolute abstract right. I am happy to be in the company of diverse people with many values who just want to place restrictions on guns in the obvious ways that will save lives.

Deborah W.
Deborah W.about a year ago

Well done good and faithful servant ... lived your beliefs, took your lumps, and proceeded in dignity to the end. Safe journey James

Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Maria Teresa Schollhornabout a year ago

Thank you.

Loretta Pienaar
Loretta Pienaarabout a year ago

A good human being fighting against something that does not belong in a civilised society.

JL A.about a year ago

Congress should pass the expanded back ground checks in Brady's honor as a memorial