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.
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