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Does Friday’s homicide ruling in Brady death open door to exploitation?

The late James S. Brady gave his trademark "thumbs up" to reporters during a White House press room visit in 2011. His death last week was ruled a homicide on Friday.
The late James S. Brady gave his trademark "thumbs up" to reporters during a White House press room visit in 2011. His death last week was ruled a homicide on Friday.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When a Virginia medical examiner ruled on Friday that former Reagan press secretary James S. Brady’s death was a homicide, there was much speculation about whether it might open the door to a criminal prosecution of the man who shot him.

One might put equal energy into wondering whether the ruling might open the door for anti-gunners to somehow exploit Brady’s passing. The ruling is being discussed on two popular Northwest gun rights forums, WaGuns and Northwest Firearms.

Is it fair to wonder about such an effort by gun prohibition lobbying groups, not the least of which is the organization that bears Brady’s name? After all, recent history offers several examples of exploitation of crimes, but the only time anyone complained that it was happening was after Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, announce a project to put armed security in schools following the December 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Another question worthy of an answer is whether Brady’s personal tragedy really produced real gains for gun grabbers. It was 12 years after he was shot that the Brady Law was passed, with its national instant background check.

But look at the high-profile crimes that have been committed since by individuals who evidently had more screws loose than John Hinckley, who remains committed because of the insanity verdict. In all but a couple of cases, the people responsible for crimes that are now being used to justify so-called “universal background checks (UBC)” to ostensibly close the “private sale loophole” bought their guns at retail, in gun shops not gun shows, and they passed background checks.

Elliot Rodger, Naveed Haq, Nidal Hasan, Sueng Hui Cho, Ian Stawicki, Jared Lee Loughner; they all bought their guns legally, passing the background checks mandated by the Brady Law. Likewise, James Eagan Holmes, the accused perpetrator in the Aurora “Batman Massacre” shooting, whose trial is scheduled for later this year, passed background checks. Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza murdered his mother and used her guns. Thurston High School gunman Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and used guns his dad bought legally.

All of these individuals got their guns at bonafide gun stores, not at gun shows or on some street corner. Efforts to close the so-called “gun show/private sale loophole” seem like proposed solutions to problems that don’t exist. But they do erode ever-so-slightly the right to keep and bear arms, taking it one more step toward being a government-regulated privilege, many gun rights activists contend.

Even if more restrictive checks become law, many police don’t believe they’ll accomplish anything, or more importantly, prevent anything. As quoted by this column the other day, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) has this to say about Initiative 594, the UBC proposal in Washington: “we, as law enforcement officers, do not believe that this will keep guns out of the hands of criminals or the mentally ill. They will continue to ignore the law and engage in black market transactions.”

All of this said, it is still a legitimate question whether, or how, the gun prohibition lobby will exploit the death of James Brady, now ruled as a homicide. It was a proper determination, since there is no statute of limitations on murder, but most observers doubt a prosecution will be mounted.

Anti-gunners have had 33 years to hone their exploitation skills. In that time, they’ve concluded that it is better, and perhaps easier, to penalize all gun owners for a crime they didn’t commit than it is to prosecute one individual for a crime he did commit, especially since he was already judged to be insane.