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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.

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The Bradys spoke this week in favor of legislation to close the "gun show loophole," as well as for Democratic bills in the House and Senate to ban large-capacity gun magazines that can fire more than 10 rounds. After the assault-weapons ban expired in 2004, large-capacity clips were again sold, allowing, for instance, the January shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six and wounded 13 before the shooter had to pause to change clips.

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Lawmakers and the president should also take courage in this: Endorsement by the NRA does not amount to an automatic win, nor does support for gun control legislation mean an automatic defeat. In 2008, voters still supported candidates who backed gun control, including Barack Obama. And in 2010, 27 Democrats in the House who were endorsed by the NRA lost their seats, while only two of the 101 Democrats who endorsed legislation to close the gun-show loophole lost. That's 99 who survived.

Particularly shameful is the stance of President Obama. He supported closing the gun-show loophole and restoring the assault-weapons ban in his 2008 campaign. Now he won't even back the baby-step effort in Congress to restrict large-capacity ammunition clips. In a March 13 oped in the Arizona Daily Star, the best he could do was to call for "a new discussion" between both sides on gun control, and to say that current laws need to be enforced.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre rebuffed the president's invitation: "Why should I sit down with a group of people who have spent their life fighting the Second Amendment?" That's an obvious mischaracterization, especially since the Supreme Court has now settled the Second Amendment question.

Mr. LaPierre's refusal to talk is also a telltale sign of bullying. The thing about bullying, though, is that once you stand up to it, once you lose your fear, it loses its aura of perceived strength. To mention another historic analogy, just look at what's happening in the Middle East. People have had enough. Two dictators have fallen. Others are on shaky ground.

Every year, about 30,000 people in the United States are killed by gun violence. That's too many. Reasonable steps can be taken to bring that number down; to prevent criminals and others who shouldn't have guns from getting them; to keep military-style assault weapons off the streets.

Most Americans know this. But Washington has not yet caught on. It can't see very well from under the thumb of the NRA.

"Jim and I believe that the NRA's mythological power will be consigned to the ash bins of time," Sarah Brady wrote. Keep on believing, Bradys. Eventually, Washington will believe, too. But it will need courage to do so.


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