Folks my age will not forget where we were or what was happening when we heard the news.
For Jim Brady he was living his dream while serving as the White House Press Secretary to a freshly elected President Ronald Reagan. I have always felt other than being president the next best job would be the press secretary. The people who fill that role from both sides of the aisle are among my favorites from over the decades. I always await their books about the time spent in the press room.
I was at our family home in Hancock, Wisconsin 35 years ago today and heard the first report of a shooting attempt on the president while listening to a Chicago radio station. We at once switched on the television and the day went truly dark for America.
There it was caught on camera as Reagan and Brady exited an event in Washington D.C. at 2:27 p.m. on March 30, 1981. We saw the horror caused by a gun as the assassination attempt struck Reagan and would lead to Brady being paralyzed for the rest of his life.
At the time, absolutely anyone — and I mean anyone—from a convicted felon to a person with a dangerous mental illness — could walk into any store that sold guns and buy one with no background check. That’s how the would-be assassin got his gun. He simply walked into a pawn shop and bought it. No one questioned him in spite of his history of mental illness and run-ins with law enforcement.
The lesson from that event 35 years ago today is that people looked at what happened and said there must be changes. We all are aware of how Jim Brady and his wife Sarah turned their personal tragedy into a national resolve to make changes in our gun laws. That same mission is ours too as the gun violence continues and the political institutions seem unable and more importantly unwilling to pass strong, sensible gun laws.
But we need to stay focused and never forget the good that can come from working for such laws. After all when people work for sanity it can happen. I think it worthy of a moment today to look on the crowning achievement, the Brady Law, which saved countless lives and blocked more than 2.6 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers. The very type of law that would have made it not possible for the man who tried to kill President Reagan and Brady from getting a gun.
I mention this all to add some historical memory to this day, and also call attention to the needs we still face with our gun laws.