This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, August 6, 2014:

Brady Campaign

When James Brady, Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary, passed away on Monday at age 73, the media predictably crowed about the success of the Brady Bill, giving him credit for pushing it through a reluctant congress back in 1993. Brady was shot during an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981, resulting in massive brain damage and putting him into a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The New York Times called him “a symbol of the fight for gun control,” while President directly credited him with saving many lives, saying in his eulogy that “an untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim.” Even Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and one who should know better, credited Brady as only one of a “few Americans in history who are directly responsible for saving as many lives…”.

The truth is different. Confined to a wheelchair, Brady was unable to articulate his thoughts clearly for many years, and so had little involvement in the growing anti-gun movement. It was his wife Sarah who jumped into the fray, but only years after the attack on her husband. She joined the board of the virulent Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI) in 1985, becoming its chair in 1989. Two years later she became chair of the sister anti-gun group Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. In 2001 each was renamed to honor Sarah and her husband: the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, respectively.

Sarah was late to the party. Originally founded in 1974 by Mark Borinsky, the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH) was chaired by Republican Party marketing operative Pete Shields, who changed its name to HCI in 1980. But not before he made crystal clear his intentions: confiscation of all handguns in the United States. In July 1976 Shields said:

The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second is to get handguns registered.

And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition – except for the military, policeman, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors – totally illegal (emphases in his original).

At the time Shields thought he could accomplish this task in seven to ten years. He was wrong. The battle is still raging and, ironically, the Brady Bill that he and Sarah labored so mightily to birth in 1993 continues to work against him.

Hard-left Democrat Chuck Schumer introduced the Brady bill in the House of Representatives in February, 1993 but it didn’t pass until months of highly emotional debates and testimonies had been presented. President Clinton signed it into law on November 30, 1993, setting up the National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) and requiring purchasers to be approved by the first. The law prohibited anyone who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, any fugitive from justice, any “unlawful user” of a “controlled substance,” or anyone who is a “mental defective” or who is committed to a mental institution.

Brady’s eulogizers claimed that two million of the more than 100 million who have asked permission to exercise their Second Amendment right have been denied that permission, thus reducing crime and saving lives.

This is an example of the logical fallacy known as “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” – after it, therefore because of it – which claims that the subsequent success in reducing crime is attributable to the Brady Bill. In fact, the Brady Bill is the high-water mark in the long war against guns. Since then the victories are increasingly being enjoyed by private citizens exercising their rights. Russell Berman, writing in the Atlantic Wire, put it well:

The signing of the Brady Bill proved to be the high-water mark for federal gun control efforts in the last 20 years. The Democrats’ blowout loss in the congressional elections of 1994 was blamed in part on a backlash against the new law by supporters of gun rights, and aggressive lobbying by the National Rifle Association has effectively blocked most new federal gun control laws in the two decades since.

It was passage of the Brady Bill that marked the tipping point in that long war, as Americans began to rediscover their rights under the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court’s decision in Printz, which declared that part of the Brady Bill was unconstitutional, was just the beginning. It was followed by Heller, then McDonald, and then, most recently, the Ninth Circuit court’s ruling against Washington, DC’s gun ban. As more and more citizens began to understand the full and purpose of people like Sarah Brady and Pete Shields, and what complete confiscation of their guns would mean to their freedoms, the pushback began in earnest. More and more states enacted laws allowing citizens increasing freedom to exercise their rights, and the have been predictable and heartening. According to the Small Arms Survey there are now 97 guns for every 100 residents in the US, while four out of ten households own at least one firearm. Best estimates are that there are now more than 270 million privately-held in the United States, exactly the opposite of the goal announced by Shields and signed onto years later by Sarah Brady.

The irony continues: as John Lott pointed out in his highly-regarded study, More Guns, Less Crime, the more people own guns the less crime there is. Just ask Detroit’s new chief of police. In a press conference last month he announced double-digit drops in violent crime as a result of his support of peoples’ right to self-defense and his invitation for concerned citizens to apply for concealed weapons permits in his city.

Here is Brady’s true legacy: while confiscation and elimination of handguns was the goal, the result is exactly the opposite: more guns, more freedom, and less crime.

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Sources:

The New York Times: Taking a Bullet, Gaining a Cause: James S. Brady Dies at 73

Yahoo News: Former White House Press Secretary James Brady Passes Away

Real Clear Politics: James Brady, Brave and Resourceful, RIP

Philly.com:     James Brady, 73, press secretary wounded in Reagan shooting

Bio on James Brady

Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act

The Brady Campaign/Handgun Control

The Blaze: How Many People Own Guns in America? And Is Gun Ownership Actually Declining?

Breitbart: Poll: Household Gun Ownership on Rise in U.S.

Number of guns per capita by country

Printz v. United States

The New : Judge Rules D.C.’s Ban on Carrying in Public Unconstitutional

The New : Serious Crime in Detroit Continues to Drop

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