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Arizona Remembers James Brady, Symbol for Gun Violence Prevention

PHOTO: Residents across Arizona and the nation are reflecting on the life of former White House press secretary James Brady, who died Monday at the age of 73. Brady was critically wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Photo credit: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
PHOTO: Residents across Arizona and the nation are reflecting on the life of former White House press secretary James Brady, who died Monday at the age of 73. Brady was critically wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Photo credit: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
August 5, 2014

PHOENIX - Arizonans are remembering James Brady, the former White House press secretary who became a key figure in the fight for gun violence prevention in the U.S. Brady died Monday at the age of 73.

Despite being critically wounded in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in March 1981, James Brady lived more than three decades after his brush with death to become the nation's leading gun control advocate.

Joan Peterson, a board member for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, had a chance to meet James Brady about four years ago in Washington, D.C.

"His speech was a little difficult to understand, but he was telling jokes with everybody," says Peterson. "He was laughing. He just had a very sharp wit and was an engaging man in spite of the fact he must have been suffering terribly. So I really value that time that I met with him."

John Hinckley, the man who shot Brady along with President Reagan and two others, was said to be trying to impress actress Jodi Foster at the time of his attempt on Reagan's life. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and remains under institutionalized psychiatric care.

Despite being left permanently disabled from the shooting, Peterson says Brady went on to become an inspiration for many in his ardent support of common-sense gun safety legislation.

"He went to Capitol Hill," says Peterson. "He did a lot of lobbying with his wife, Sarah, and managed to get a bill passed that would require background checks on sales of guns through federally-licensed firearms dealers."

According to the Brady Campaign, it's estimated that because of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, some two million gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous individuals have been blocked - and countless lives saved.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ