By Amalia Corby-Edwards (Sr. Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, APA Public Interest Government Relations Office)
Do you know James Brady? Few Americans recognize his key role in shaping national gun policy. On March 30, 1981, 84 days into his tenure as President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, multiple bullets intended for the President instead struck James Brady. Mr. Brady suffered debilitating, life-long injuries in the attack, but he survived. The assailant that shot Mr. Brady—and President Reagan—had purchased his firearm only moments before setting out to shoot the president. Had a background check system been in place, he may have been stopped.
Subsequent to the attack and through a long, complicated recovery, Mr. Brady and his wife Sarah campaigned for sensible federal background check legislation, which was enacted in 1994 as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The Brady bill requires background checks for many gun buyers, and prohibits individuals categorized as “high-risk” from owning a gun. These “high-risk” individuals include domestic violence perpetrators and convicted felons. This legislation also served as a catalyst for future firearm regulation and violence prevention initiatives. Today, the Brady bill remains in effect and has kept an estimated two million firearms out of the hands of criminals.
Background checks are one effective tool in preventing gun violence
Homicide rates have fallen substantially since enactment of the Brady Bill.
However, there are many other promising approaches to reducing gun violence. The APA Panel of Experts report, “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy,” discussed many of these strategies and recommends a multifaceted approach to gun violence prevention.
The APA report and accompanying Resolution on Firearm Violence Research and Prevention advocate for a science-based approach to violence prevention that frames firearm violence as a public health issue. This type of effort hinges on the collection and analysis of data to inform communities, law enforcement, and mental health professionals of the risk factors for violence. Such a perspective enables us to understand easy access to a firearm from within a framework of these multiple, and often inter-related, risk factors.
Violence prevention advocacy can make a difference
James Brady, one of the many faces of gun violence, passed away this week at the age of 73. Millions more victims like him deserve a voice–these include victims of domestic violence and community violence, as well as mass shootings. James Brady and his family turned tragedy into social change through effective, tireless advocacy. Other survivors and our communities at-large stand to benefit from APA’s advocacy efforts for a science-based, comprehensive public health approach to preventing gun violence.
Image source: White House
APA Topic Page: Gun Violence Prevention