Gun Control Icon James Brady Is Dead, After 33 Years Of Fighting For The Cause

Former White House Press Secretary and gun control icon James Brady died on Monday at 73. Brady was Ronald Reagan’s first press secretary, and took a bullet to the head during a botched attempt on Reagan’s life in 1981. After the shooting, he and his wife Sarah became leading advocates for stricter firearm regulations, and their efforts culminated in the passage of the landmark 1993 Brady Bill, which requires federal background checks for gun buys.

"Jim touched the lives of so many and has been a wonderful husband, father, friend and role model," his family said in a statement. “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, nicknamed “The Bear” for his brawny figure, was appointed press secretary at the beginning of Reagan’s first term. He was by Reagan’s side on March 30, 1981, when a would-be assassin attempted to kill the president outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, and while nobody was killed in the attempt, Brady was left permanently disabled by one of the bullets and had to undergo numerous surgeries during his recovery.

The shooter, John Hinckley Jr., was a textbook example of the need for stronger regulations for gun buyers. In October the year before, Hinckley had been arrested while trying to take three handguns on an airplane in what may have been a plot to assassinate Jimmy Carter.

He was released on bond, and three days later, purchased a .22 caliber revolver from a pawn shop using a fake home address. That was the gun he used in the attempt on Reagan’s life, and the entire situation illustrated the ease with which handguns could be purchased by high-risk individuals.

After the shooting, Brady took up gun control activism. Because he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, his wife, Sarah, became the public face of efforts for stricter gun laws. She took an active role in the National Council to Control Handguns, later renamed the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun violence, and testified to Congress on the importance of stronger gun laws. In 1993, President Clinton signed the Brady Law, which mandated background checks for federally-licensed gun dealers; since the law’s passage, it’s resulted in the denial of nearly two million attempted firearm purchases.