Only months after being named Press Secretary, Brady sustained a gunshot wound to the head during the assassination attempt of President Reagan on March 30, 1981. It had been reported that Brady had died of his wounds, but he would pull through. Slurred speech and partial paralysis left him unable to continue in the job although Reagan saw to it that he kept the title of Press Secretary throughout his presidency. Larry Speakes and later Marlin Fitzwater held the titles of Deputy Press Secretary.
After Reagan left office, Brady became publicly active in supporting gun control measures along with wife Sarah through the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. Their signature achievement was getting Congress to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. Better known as the Brady Bill, it required a federal background check on the purchase of all handguns from gun dealers. Critical to the passage of the Brady Bill was the public support of former President Reagan who wrote an editorial in favor of the bill on the 10th anniversary of the attempt on his and Brady’s life. For his work, Clinton honored Brady with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.
While some credit the Brady Bill for reducing the national crime rate in the 1990s, there have been studies which make the case the Brady Bill has had no impact on gun homicides. Of course, the Brady Bill doesn’t prevent gun control advocates for clamoring for more laws with each mass shooting that follows. No law no matter how well intended, well written or even effective can prevent the tragedies we’ve seen in recent years.
Nevertheless, Jim Brady made the best of his circumstances in his final three plus decades by striving to improve public safety with both good spirits and good humor.