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What's Changed: From Brady Bill To Current Gun Control Push


Sarah Brady has worked for tougher gun laws for decades. Her husband, Jim Brady, was shot in the head by John Hinckley when he attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Jim Brady was President Reagan's press secretary and has lived with a disability ever since. The Bradys founded the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which worked to pass a law that now bears their name, the Brady Bill.

And Sarah Brady joins us from her home in Virginia. Ms. Brady, thanks very for being with us.

SARAH BRADY: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: You have watched many pushes for gun control come and go over the decades. Do you have a feeling that this time's any different?

BRADY: Yes, I do. I think the groundswell of public opinion is making a very big difference. It's still very difficult however, politically, I think. And whether we can overcome that to get the entire bill through, I don't know. It's going to be a hard row this time.

SIMON: But what do you say to folks who point out that various gun control measures have been passed for over the past 25 and 30 years, and that the answer isn't new laws so much as enforcing the old ones?

BRADY: Let me just talk about the Brady Law, which has just been amazing in stopping people from getting weapons who were prohibited from doing so. The problem is that it didn't cover all gun purchases. It's only purchases done through licensed gun dealers.

SIMON: This is the gun show loophole, as it's called.

BRADY: Yes. And we did have discussions and tried to get complete background checks at that time. But we were unable to do so.

SIMON: But again, let me get you to address the reservation some people have, that we really have good common-sense gun control laws on the books now and they're only sporadically successfully enforced.

BRADY: Well, in the first place, I don't think many people feel that way unless you're talking about are people prosecuted. I have heard complaints from the gun lobby about that. Because if they're trying to purchase a gun and they were not able to, what the law does now - as far as it enforces it - is to not allow them to get a gun. And our main concern is not to prosecute these people as much as it is to have the complete background checks, so that anybody cannot buy a gun if they're not qualified.

SIMON: Sarah Brady, do you have any advice you might offer Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly now that they've become so involved?

BRADY: Oh, I just admire them both so much. I'm so glad that they've taken this wonderful step. The big thing is not to give up. The biggest advice and the problem I have is I'm listening to the same rhetoric today; the same old thing as we heard 25 years ago and more. Most people and most gun owners want good laws.

Just like as Mark has said - and I'm so glad that he comes out and says - yes, he's a gun owner and he and Gabby both are. But they really are pushing for this.

SIMON: Sarah Brady, you and Jim have made, in a sense, a life and a cause out of this tragedy - this crime of your husband's shooting. And I wonder if you ever reflect on the different course your lives took on that one afternoon.

BRADY: Well, of course, I think how Jim's life has changed so dramatically. For him it's been, I mean and still is, a hard fight every day of his life, the pain now that he's going through. Do I reflect on what else we might have been doing? I don't, because we've just - this is where we are now and this is the way we want to move forward.

SIMON: Sarah Brady is a founder of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a longtime advocate for stricter gun control.

Sarah Brady, thanks so much for being with us.

BRADY: Thank you, Scott. It was a delight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.