I once had the pleasure of meeting the late James Brady, who died yesterday at age 73, when he was press secretary to Ronald Reagan.
It was on St. Patrick’s Day in 1981. Brady, a warm bear of a man, talked excitedly about his Cavan roots and how he was hopeful his boss would take a trip to Ireland as president.
Brady could not have been nicer or more accommodating to a young reporter, spending far more time than necessary with me.
Just a few weeks after that meeting Brady was struck down and gravely injured by an assassin’s bullet meant for President Reagan on March 31, 1981.
Several other Irish Americans, including President Reagan, were in the line of fire that fateful day as the president emerged from making a speech at a Washington Hotel and assassin John Hinckley lurked.
Police Officer Thomas Delahanty took one for the president as did Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. It did not go unremarked that Irish Americans took all the bullets that fateful day, a testament to their commitment to law and order and placing their lives on the line.
Both McCarthy and Delahanty were badly injured as was Reagan, who, it later transpired, almost died from his wounds. But no one suffered more subsequently – or showed more courage – than James Brady.
His wife Sarah was determined to do something about gun violence and immersed herself – as did her brain injured but still functioning husband – in the Brady gun laws that sought to prevent the mentally disturbed getting access to guns.
The fact that they succeeded at one point and passed the Brady Bill, which curtailed gun sales, was an extraordinary achievement given the incredible power in Washington of the National Rifle Association.
That organization is surely glad that Brady, a permanent symbol of the deadly impact that guns in the hands of disturbed people can have, is now gone.
Jim and Sarah Brady could easily have disappeared after the shooting and learned to accept their fate.
Instead they came out fighting for the many victims of gun violence in a country gone mad in safeguarding gun owners' rights but ignoring victims' rights.
James Brady is gone now, at age 73. He did his duty as a brave American to try and keep America safer. His legacy must never be forgotten or his dream of a safer America denied.
James Brady in his grave is taller than all the gun nuts arrayed against him.
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