Former Reagan press secretary James Brady, who was shot along with President Reagan, a secret service agent and a police officer in the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, should be remembered by for many years to come. Brady, who passed away on Tuesday, left two legacies to the American People and for that we should be forever grateful to him. Brady's first legacy was the significant gun control bill known as The Brady Bill which was passed by Congress after a significant amount of advocacy from Brady. Brady's second legacy was his profound courage in the face of adversity, which will continue to serve as a prolific inspiration to Americans for many years to come.
Brady taught us one very compelling lesson: A person is not defined by the challenges that he is facing, but by his responses to such challenges. James Brady arose swiftly and faced the challenges of limited mobility with courage and determination. After facing the anguish and pain associated with a serious head injury from a bullet wound, Brady had first hand knowledge of the dangers of handguns and assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons when they are in the wrong hands. He launched a nationwide campaign to require background checks on any and all purchasers of firearms who buy the weapons from federally licensed gun retailers or who ship or transport such weapons in interstate or foreign commerce. The Brady Bill also prohibited the sale of firearms to people who had been convicted of violent offenses, stocking intimate partners, or been imprisoned for a year or longer.
Although Brady started fighting for the Brady Bill shortly after the March 31, 1981 shooting, the bill did not get passed and become law until Bill Clinton was President in February 1994. The bill had been rejected by two previous Presidents, Ronald Reagan, whose bullet wound in the chest also was life threatening, and George H.W. Bush, who had served as Reagan's Vice-President prior to being elected President. Ironically, Reagan had a change of heart after leaving the White House and even visited President Bush in the White House to lobby him to sign The Brady Bill. However, Bush refused to sign the legislation and it was not signed and enacted until after his successor Bill Clinton took office.
It is this commentator's guess that James Brady would not want to be remembered as the press secretary who was shot in the attempted assassination of the President for whom he worked; nor would he want to be remembered exclusively as the proponent and chief advocate of The Brady Bill. However, it likely is safe to assume that Brady would want to be remembered as a man who fought for that in which he believed and never gave up. In so doing, Brady personified the essence of Americana: having a vision, fighting tooth and nail to bring that vision about, and not allowing minor setbacks to defeat him.
No matter what anyone's position is on The Brady Bill, he or she can learn a lesson from James Brady: Determine what is true for you. Believe in and advocate for that truth and never give up. These are among the freedoms for which our troops have fought since the founding of our country and heroes like James Brady remind us to be forever vigilant in our endeavors to uphold our beliefs and remain strong in our determination.
Good bye, humble hero. We shall remember you for a very long time.