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Gun control icon James Brady passes

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James Brady, seriously wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan and an icon of the gun control movement as a result of that injury, died today according to the New York Times and other news agencies. He was 73.

Brady was struck in the head by a bullet fired by would-be killer John Hinckley. He was the most seriously injured person that day, and he never fully recovered from his wound, being confined to a wheelchair.

But Brady’s image became iconic to the gun prohibition lobby, which pushed for 12 years and finally saw passage of the Brady Law in 1993 during the first term of the Clinton administration. With his wife, Sarah, as the official spokesman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Brady occasionally made public appearances or issued statements in support of all kinds of gun control measures, including the ban on so-called “assault weapons.”

Gun laws in many states have improved, while they have become more restrictive in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Washington, a gun control group is running a citizen initiative on the November ballot to tighten gun laws.

There is no small amount of irony in the fact that in the years since passage of the Brady handgun law, gun ownership has soared. Along with that, every state now has some kind of concealed carry statute, though in some states it is difficult to virtually impossible to get a carry permit, and there are now, by some estimates, more than 11.1 million private citizens who are licensed to carry.

That number includes 464,732 active Washington CPLs, up more than 3,000 since Examiner checked with the Department of Licensing at this time last month. The Evergreen State remains among the top states in terms of per capita carry licenses.

Brady was shot, along with President Reagan, a Secret Service agent and a Washington, D.C. police officer, by the mentally unstable Hinckley, outside of a hotel in the District. The city banned handgun possession unless the gun was registered with the city prior to 1976. It was illegal for Hinckley to carry that unregistered gun, but the gun control law didn’t prevent his action.

Today, thanks to a recent federal District Court ruling, the District’s ban on carrying guns outside the home has been declared unconstitutional in a case brought by the Second Amendment Foundation. The judge in that case issued a 90-day stay last week, allowing the District time to either file an appeal, or adopt a workable carry ordinance.

Congress allowed the Clinton semi-auto ban, passed in 1994, to expire ten years later, despite Brady’s appeal to renew it. However, the National Instant Check System – a main tenet of the Brady Law – remains in effect.

A spokesperson for the family did not specify a cause of death.