The horrific injuries suffered in 1981 by James Brady during the attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan were a wakeup call to many about the dangers of America’s gun culture, including Brady, who became a gun control advocate. Though it took 13 more years, a federal law imposing background checks for many gun purchases finally passed, and that law bears Brady’s name. One can only guess how many killings and maimings the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act has prevented.
But especially over the last decade, the country has largely been going the opposite direction, toward less gun control. Loopholes in the Brady Law, like those allowing easy gun sales between individuals, remain open. A ban on certain multiple-round rifles imposed during the Clinton administration expired and has never been renewed. More and more people in the South and West are openly carrying guns in public. There are nearly as many firearms in America — about 300 million — as there are people.
Brady died Monday at age 73. Maybe his passing can get us once again thinking about how to rein in our gun culture. There could hardly be a more fitting tribute to the man.