Reagan aide, gun control advocate Jim Brady dies

Former Reagan press secretary was shot in head during assassination attempt on president
Associated Press
Aug 4, 2014

 

A major trait that endeared Jim Brady to the Washington press corps was his sense of humor, especially when he made fun of his own boss.

When Ronald Reagan was campaigning for president in 1980, Reagan drew scorn from environmentalists for saying that trees were a greater source of pollution than cars. Aboard the campaign plane, Brady pointed at a forest fire in the distance and yelled, "Killer trees! Killer trees!" to the great amusement of reporters.

After the election, Reagan's advisers appeared hesitant to appoint him press secretary. Nancy Reagan was said to feel the job required someone younger and better-looking than the 40-year-old, moon-faced, balding Brady.

"I come before you today not as just another pretty face but out of sheer talent," Brady told reporters. A week later, he got the job.

Brady, who died Monday at 73, would need humor and much more after March 30, 1981. On that day John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel just two months into the new president's term. Reagan nearly died from a chest wound. Three others, including Brady, were struck by bullets from Hinckley's handgun.

Shot in the head, Brady lived through hours of delicate surgery and then many more operations over the years. But he never recovered the normal use of his limbs and was often in a wheelchair. Besides partial paralysis from brain damage, he suffered short-term memory impairment, slurred speech and constant pain.

Still, along with his wife, Sarah, he went on to become the face and as much as possible the voice of the gun-control movement in the United States. A federal law requiring background checks for handgun buyers bears his name.

Mrs. Reagan, the former first lady, said Monday she was "deeply saddened to learn of Jim Brady's passing today. Thinking of him brings back so many memories — happy and sad — of a time in all of our lives when we learned what it means to 'play the hand we're dealt.'"

The lasting public image of Brady came from the worst day of his life. A news clip of the 1981 shooting, replayed often on television and in documentaries, showed him sprawled on the sidewalk after several Secret Service agents had hustled the wounded president into his limousine and others had pounced on Hinckley.

Although Brady returned to the White House only briefly, a year after the shooting, he was allowed to keep the title of presidential press secretary — and the $89,500 annual salary as assistant to the president for press relations — until Reagan left office.

The TV replays did take a toll on Brady. He told The Associated Press years later that he relived the moment each time.

"I want to take every bit of (that) film ... and put them in a cement incinerator, slosh them with gasoline and throw a lighted cigarette in," he said.

Officials at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, where Hinckley is a patient, have said that the mental illness that led him to shoot Reagan in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster has been in remission for decades. Hinckley has been allowed to leave the hospital to visit his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Brady was a strong Republican from an early age. As a boy of 12 in Centralia, Illinois, where he was born on Aug. 29, 1940, he distributed election literature for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In a long string of political jobs, Brady worked for Sen. Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois, Sen. William V. Roth Jr. of Delaware and John Connally, the former Texas governor who ran for president in 1979. When Connally dropped out, Brady joined Reagan's campaign as director of public affairs and research.

Previously, he had worked in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford: as special assistant to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as special assistant to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as an assistant to the defense secretary.

He was divorced from the former Sue Beh when, in 1973, he courted Sarah Jane Kemp, the daughter of an FBI agent who was working with him in a congressional office.

Sarah Brady became involved in gun-control efforts in 1985, and later chaired Handgun Control Inc., but Brady took a few more years to join her, and Reagan did not endorse their efforts until 10 years after he was shot. Reagan's surprise endorsement — he was a longtime National Rifle Association member and an opponent of gun control laws — helped turn the tide in Congress.

"They're not going to accuse him of being some bed-wetting liberal, no way can they do that," said Brady, who had become an active lobbyist for the bill.

The Brady law required a five-day wait and background check before a handgun can be sold. In November 1993, as President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, Brady said: "Every once in a while, you need to wake up and smell the propane. I needed to be hit in the head before I started hitting the bricks."

At the time of the 30th anniversary of the shooting, the Bradys told NPR they were no longer Republicans. "Times change," Sarah Brady said.

Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama's press secretary, said Monday that Brady "showed his patriotism and commitment to the country by being very outspoken on an issue that was important to him and that he felt very strongly about."

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement that because of Brady's work on gun control "there are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim." In its own statement, the National Rifle Association said it extended "heartfelt condolences" to Brady's family.

Clinton awarded Brady the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. In 2000, the press briefing room at the White House was renamed in his honor. The following year, Handgun Control Inc., was renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Brady also served as vice chair of the National Organization on Disability and co-chair of the National Head Injury Foundation.

Survivors include his wife; a son, Scott, and a daughter, Melissa.

"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. It said they were "so thankful to have had the opportunity to say their farewells" but did not say where he was when he died.

 

Comments

GoBigLex2001

Anyone who is against any part the Constitution (in his case, the 2nd Amendment) and freedom will not be missed.

The Big Dog's back

Neither will you.

beepx22

And surely neither will you

JACKEL

I usually reply 180 degrees from your posts. This one cracked me up !

GoBigLex2001

Glad ya got a chuckle.

To the rest, I dont care if I will be missed or not. At least I know I value freedom and rights. Mr. Brady surely did not.

Pterocarya frax...

The man took a bullet in the brain for your hero president. You are truly pathetic BigLex. Shame on you.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

This was an interesting and candid read regarding the Brady Bill: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/2...

Florence Nightingale

Thanks for that link! As you said, very interesting. I'm going to plead ignorance here -what are the current gun laws in this state as far as background checks, waiting period, etc.?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I can look into it and get back to you. A few of our guys in the store community here are involved with guns professionally and/or recreationally.

Florence Nightingale

I don't mean to put you out - I guess I was "wondering while writing". I'm sure I could look it up :)

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Here's a pretty comprehensive list of laws: http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/o...

Specifically if you are looking for Ohio Gun and CCW laws: http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/O...

If you want a "TL;DR" breakdown of how to buy a gun in Ohio: http://www.wikihow.com/Buy-a-Gun...

There is no waiting time in Ohio and depending on the gun transaction you don't need a background check.

Also you didn't put me out. The whole reason I post on here and appreciate questions, comments, and criticism is so that I can continue to research and learn myself. I took your question as a good opportunity to look into it more. I hope these links help!

http://youtu.be/v3rhQc666Sg

Florence Nightingale

That saved me some time - thank you very much!

beepx22

Full of good intentions and bad ideas. Too bad his name will forever be attached to a group dedicated to stripping freedoms from law abiding Americans

JACKEL

Yea, that is true. Then again there are many who have suffered similar tragedies that realize the real problem. Killers will get guns just like junkies get drugs .

getit right be4...

Shannon Watts should be next.

Pterocarya frax...

If you are suggesting Shannon Watts should die, then shame on you too.

KURTje

Don't agree with Brady but he surely suffered. Ted Nugent & Chaney are still cowards beep.

grumpy

Yes I am sure those two have also sat behind a computer and called others names.

Dr. Information

Its kurt, he can't help himself, IQ of an infant.

The Big Dog's back

Good lord, toughen up a little bit and quit whining about name calling. Only sissys do that.

holysee

ron reagan a proven doosh bag

Contango

Re: "John Hinckley Jr.,"

Nuts with guns.

If they have the motivation, no piece of legislation will prevent them from finding other ways in order to carry out their insane actions.

See: Ted Kaczynski

Also, too bad for the poor b*stard that he didn't know that Jodie Foster was gay.

The Big Dog's back

The bushes could have told him since he was a bush family friend.

ram03

Hey I got an idea. If we ban all weapons then nobody can get hurt. That includes your golf clubs. Turn 'em all in, let's go.

SamAdams

The tragedy that cost Jim Brady so much resulted in his evangelism against firearms. It's entirely understandable, but still completely wrong.

Criminals don't undergo background checks to obtain their weapons of choice, and men (and women) with undiagnosed mental illnesses will PASS a background check. The Brady Bill has effectively infringed on the rights of law abiding citizens, but has done little else (other then let Jim Brady and his shrewish wife live on in name for the cause they espoused).

It's clear that men and women like Jim and Sarah Brady are perfectly willing to trade liberty for the mere perception of added safety. That's the second -- and for more wide-ranging -- tragedy here!

Pterocarya frax...

And so the answer to the gun violence in this country???...deal with it because we don't want to infringe on the rights of potential mass murderers???

What about the rights of the victims??

SamAdams

The problem isn't gun violence. It's violence. Whether it's the increased violence of the usual schoolyard bullying, the increased violence in fights in schools or bars, or the increased incidents of road rage, it's all the same underlying problem. I attribute a good deal of it to a lack of responsibility followed by a lack of consequences which, in turns, encourages the lack of control to continue ad even to escalate. (There's also an aspect here of an increasing lack of empathy evidenced by everything from pure and simple selfishness to truly horrific acts of animal cruelty.)

As for victims' rights, just remember: victims don't have rights above and beyond any of the rest of us. It is, in fact, the infringement of those basic rights that has made them victims in the first place.

Freedom sometimes isn't pretty, and it sometimes isn't safe. Slavery, on the other hand, is usually really ugly but often VERY safe. Which do YOU prefer?

P.S. Did you REALLY just refer to all gun owners as "potential mass murderers?" REALLY?

Contango

Re: "It's violence,"

If black-on-black violence, gun and otherwise was removed from the crime statistics, the U.S. would look little different than supposedly 'safer' Europe.

Typical, the politicos work on the wrong end of the problem.

deertracker

Always blaming the Blacks! SMDH!

Contango

Re: "blaming,"

Just a simple matter of a statistical FACT.

Pterocarya frax...

According to SamAdams:

"victims don't have rights above and beyond any of the rest of us."

I guess you are sort of right Sam. Victims don't have any rights...they are dead!!

So according to you Sam, if we allow background checks, we are slaves?? I think your definition of freedom is pretty messed up.

SamAdams

Pterocaarya frax, you should really think a little more before you type. You know perfectly well that NOBODY -- not victims, not criminals, not you, not me -- has more or less basic rights than anybody else. We ALL have the right to be secure in our persons, hence assault and murder are crimes. We ALL have the right to be secure in our homes and to own property, hence burglary is a crime. And so on.

Rights can be voluntarily forfeited, of course. As an example, if you break into my house and attempt to kill me but I kill you instead, I've not violated your rights but protected my own. If you rape me and end up being caught, your right to travel freely will be taken from you. Again, that's not a violation of YOUR rights, but a protection of the rights of others.

But pretending that I enjoy special status because I'm a woman or a minority or gay or a victim doesn't elevate ME; it devalues YOU.

Do background checks make you a slave? Kind of, yes. After all, you have certain rights you were born with, rights our founding documents call "unalienable." And the very minute you start asking permission to exercise one of those unalienable rights, it's no longer a right but a privilege. And as every parent out there knows all too well, privileges can be revoked. What would YOU call it when somebody else controls your most basic rights?

The Big Dog's back

yeah sam, getting shot in the head might change your views.

SamAdams

Only assuming the shot in the head caused brain damage.

deertracker

Some of you do realize that "control" and "ban" have two different meanings?

meowmix

Excellent point deertracker--instead, they want to climb up on their soapbox and spew their version of what the Constitution means. Yes, yes, we know, they'll give up their guns when they're pried from their cold, dead, hands.....blah, blah, blah.

grumpy

Gun control means hitting your target.

Browndog271

Good riddance!

Dr. Information

Chicago is a prime example of how gun control and banning does not work.

thinkagain's picture
thinkagain

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” to which I responded “I never saw anyone shoot someone dead with their finger.”

KURTje

Lemme see Dr imo...you are friends with Stackhouse? He got welfare & messed up Willard too. Those are your heroes. Prometheus Society members laugh @ you.

PirateBacker1975

I will never understand the people that say gun controls and gun safety are trampling on people's rights. And yes, I've had that "It's in the Constitution" argument thrown in my face about a million times. Free speech is also in the Constitution, but I can't threaten people or incite a riot; it's against the law and protects people's safety.

And you do realize that by stripping all gun control laws from the books means that those minorities that you're all so afraid of can arm themselves to the hilt, too? I'd just love to see a big gathering like we see every year at Bike Week walking around Sandusky, openly carrying their guns, if they were black. I guarantee you people screaming about the Constitution would change your tune.

By the way, someone earlier wrote about how if we subtracted black on black crime from the statistics, we'd be safer like those countries in Europe. What an idiotic and racist statement. Blacks are less American than whites? And guess what? Subtract the white on white crime and we'd be the safest country in the world! White people are six times more likely to be killed by another white person than a black person. Oh, and get this: over 53% of gang killings are committed by white people.

I never hear about those things on Fox News, though.

Contango

Re: "Free speech is also in the Constitution,"

How about having the necessity of a background check or licensing prior to exercising that right?

"the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

What part of this statement is in question?

deertracker

You consider a background check infringement?

grumpy

Do you consider showing a state issued ID before voting an infringement?

The Big Dog's back

Apples and oranges.

grumpy

Yes both are Constitutional rights and neither mention mention proving anything needed to exercise that Right in the Constitution. One you agree with and one you don't, that is what is different. Nothing is the same about them at all. (sarcasm for those too thick to realize it)