James Brady, the often-irreverent press secretary to President Ronald Reagan who was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on his boss in 1981 and who became an enduring symbol of gun control, died yesterday at 73, the Washington Post reports. Brady remained an influential presence in the gun-control debate decades after the attack, which left him partially paralyzed. He and his wife, Sarah, often described as the “first family” of gun control, battled six years for passage of legislation that in 1993 ushered in background checks for handguns bought from federally licensed dealers.
In public appearances, congressional testimony and through the news media, Sarah Brady became the public face of the gun-control movement in America. She used her husband's story to rally support for legislation. She joined what then was the little-known lobbying group National Council to Control Handguns, later called Handgun Control Inc. and now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In 2000, a study by public policy professors Philip Cook of Duke University and Jens Ludwig of Georgetown University found that the Brady measure had probably not been a factor in reducing gun-related homicides nationwide.