James Brady, former White House press secretary, gun control advocate, dies at 73

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

James Brady 1940-2014
Image: Shealah Craighead.

James Brady, former White House Press Secretary for the Ronald Reagan US presidential administration and advocate for gun control, died yesterday at age 73 in an Alexandria, Virginia retirement community. The family released a statement saying, "We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Jim 'Bear' Brady has passed away after a series of health issues". Brady was a few weeks shy of his 74th birthday.

Brady was serving as President Reagan's press secretary when he was the most seriously wounded out of four, in a assassination attempt on Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. on March 30, 1981. Brady was shot in the head by a hollow-point bullet damaging his right frontal lobe. Dr. Arthur Kobrine, a neurosurgeon, operated on Brady to save his life. Brady survived but was left with brain damage, slurred speech, short-term memory loss, and partial paralysis which required use of a wheelchair.

Following the assassination attempt, Brady and his wife Sarah joined with The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, and Handgun Control, Inc., two organizations lobbying for gun control. The organizations were later renamed in honor of Brady, as Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence respectively. The organizations lobbied for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a law passed in 1993 which requires federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States.

Brady never again held press conferences after the assassination attempt; nevertheless, he officially remained press secretary throughout the entire Reagan administration, till 1989. In 2000, the White House press briefing room was renamed after Brady. Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama's current press secretary, along with eleven other former White House press secretaries said in a statement, "Jim Brady defined the role of the modern White House Press Secretary. With his passing we lost a friend and mentor, and the country lost a selfless public servant who dedicated his life to service, even in the face of tragedy. [...] Jim set the model and standard for the rest of us to follow. It's been a genuine honor for each of us to stand at the podium in the briefing room that will always bear his name."

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