James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was severely injured during a 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, has died aged 73.
Brady, confined to a wheelchair after he was shot in the head during the Washington, D.C., shooting that also injured President Reagan, became an ardent campaigner for gun control, eventually leading to legislation that bore his name.
The Brady Handgun Violence and Protection Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, mandates federal background checks on gun purchases in the United States. The law took effect in 1994, and has been credited with preventing well over a million illegal firearms sales.
Advocates for better gun control policy mourned Brady’s loss.
“We are heartbroken over the passing of James Brady,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Sarah, and the rest of his family as we mourn the loss of our dear friend and a true American hero.”
Gross said Jim and his wife Sarah Brady worked tirelessly to “make it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns.”
"At a time when the National Rifle Association had been recently taken over by extremists and his own injuries were a daily challenge, Jim Brady refused to give up,” said Cliff Schecter, a public relations strategist who has often focused on the issue of gun violence. “He gave everything he had to trying to make sure others would not needlessly be in the line of fire."
Before the shooting, Brady worked as the press secretary for Reagan. The briefing room in the White House is named in his honor.
The current White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said Brady “really revolutionized the job.” Earnest also praised Brady’s gun control work as an example of “his patriotism and his commitment to the country.”
Brady was shot along with Reagan and D.C. police officer Thomas Delehanty on March 30, 1981, by John Hinkley, Jr. Hinkley used a .22 caliber revolver he had purchased at a Dallas pawnshop the prior year. Hinkley used an old driver's license and a false address, and did not disclose an arrest just four days prior for attempting to board an American Airlines fight with three other guns and loose ammunition. He also had a history of mental health issues.
After Brady’s shooting, he and his family argued a simple background check could have prevented the gun sale and its horrible after-effects.
In the first 15 years of the Brady law, 107 million background checks were performed, according to the U.S. Department of Justice [PDF]. Nearly 2 million firearms sales were stopped after the checks turned up violations.
The NRA has consistently opposed checks like those mandated under Brady.