Thirty years after Reagan was shot, Jim and Sarah Brady courageously keep the pressure on for gun control
As Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady was seriously wounded during the shooting. You have to admire the dedication of the Bradys to keep pushing for reasonable gun control laws. But as the Bradys acknowledge, Washington must find the courage to stand up to the NRA.
Remember the Bradys? Not the bunch, but the dedicated couple that has pushed gun control for decades.Skip to next paragraph
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Thirty years ago, Jim Brady was shot in the head as part of the assassination attempt on President Reagan by John Hinckley. At the time, Mr. Brady was the president's press secretary. This week, Brady – in a wheelchair – and his wife, Sarah, visited the Capitol and White House to again advocate for restrictions on guns.
One marvels that they have not yet given up. Through "tear-stained optimism," as Sarah Brady put it in a Washington Post oped, they believe it's still possible to better restrict access to guns for those who shouldn't have them, without trampling on the rights of the many law-abiding citizens who own or want to buy firearms.
I was particularly interested in the analogy that Mrs. Brady made between the fight for more sensible gun laws and the struggle for a woman's right to vote and for full citizenship for African Americans. "Isn't that a bit of a stretch?" I asked myself as I read her piece in the Post. But then I looked at it a second time, and I realized she was underscoring the need for political courage in the face of intimidation as the thread that binds these three subjects.
Courage is the single most important ingredient needed to enact new laws to reduce gun violence.
Lawmakers have cowered before the gun lobby ever since 1994, when Democrats took huge losses because the National Rifle Association singled out those who voted for the "Brady bill" (a background check for gun purchasers at federally licensed dealers) and a ban on assault-style weapons. The scare was reinforced in 2000, when the NRA targeted Al Gore, who lost his home state of Tennessee in his bid for the White House.
Reasonable steps to reduce gun violence will never be taken if Democrats, Republicans, and the president don't stand up to the NRA. They can steel themselves with this knowledge: Even though polls show the country split on the broad subject of gun control, when you ask Americans to consider individual restrictive measures, they support them.
For instance, 87 percent approve of criminal background checks for all gun purchases, even those at gun shows – which are not currently covered by federal law, but which should be. This was the finding of a 2008 poll done for a bipartisan coalition of mayors who support more restrictions on guns. Another large majority, 82 percent, support limiting the sale of military-style assault weapons, according to a 2007 University of Chicago poll. A 2011 poll for the bipartisan mayors group shows that 58 percent approve of a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines (so does former Vice President Dick Cheney, by the way).