He literally took a bullet for his President. He was shot in the head, the bullet penetrating his brain in a way that is nearly always fatal. And yet he survived. He was press secretary to President Ronald Reagan…a title he held throughout the Reagan presidency, though for two years he was unable to speak and for the remaining years others had to speak for him because he couldn’t stand. His successors would hold the title “acting” press secretary.
And, thereafter, James Brady spent the rest of his life trying to make sure that what had happened to him would never happen to anyone else. He and his wife, Sarah, fought for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993…and was endorsed by Ronald Reagan, now the god of the right and the NRA. The act provided for a seven-day waiting period before you could buy a hand gun…and included a mandatory background check before the purchase could be made.
Background checks. Imagine that.
What a different world we live in today. In this world, the NRA and the gun manufacturers reign supreme. The assault rifle ban, passed two years after the Brady Act, was allowed to expire more than a decade ago…and there is no political will in Congress to renew it. Even in the aftermath of mass shooting after mass shooting…even after the murder of 20 children and six of their teachers…the cowards in Congress cannot even pass a new background checks law supported by more than 90% of the American people. And we are treated to the sight of so-called “open carry” morons carrying their manhood on their backs in fast food restaurants and discount stores, frightening little children with their metal penises.
James Brady had more courage than any ten members of the current Congress. Given the nature of his injuries and the resultant disabilities they imposed on him, no one could have blamed him if he had simply retired to his home and lived out his life quietly without controversy or difficulty. He chose a different path. He chose to fight for what he believed in, chose to fight to keep others from suffering what he’d suffered. That he won his battle is a testament not only to his courage and persistence but to the nature of the country he lived in at the time.
Where did that country go? When did our national debate over guns come to be dominated by hillbillies with assault rifles?
When did this country cease to belong to James and Sarah Brady? And how do they…and we…get it back?