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Brady Campaign

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence are two closely affiliated non-profits in the United States that work to prevent gun violence. The Campaign wing is a 501(c)(4), devoting its efforts to passing legislation; the Center, however, is a 501(c)(3), which seeks to use education to prevent gun violence. The two groups are together called, colloquially, the Brady Campaign.

The Brady Campaign emerged from Handgun Control, Inc., originally the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH), and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (CPHV). NCCH was founded in 1974 by Dr. Mark Borinsky, a victim of gun violence, and became HCI in 1980.

HCI grew rapidly following assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. Both Reagan and his press secretary, James Brady were shot; President Reagan recovered quickly, but Mr. Brady, shot in the head, was less fortunate. This led his wife, Sarah Brady, to join HCI in 1985, of which she became chair in 1989. Two years later, she became chair of CPHV (in 1991).

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or Brady Bill into law. The culmination of a seven-year effort on the part of HCI, the Brady Bill required a five-day waiting period and background check on handgun purchases.

On June 14, 2001, Handgun Control, Inc. was renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in honor of Sarah and Jim Brady. On October 1, 2001, it incorporated the Million Mom March.

Some critics claim that the Brady Campaign has been ineffective since the Democratic Party lost control of Congress in January 1995. Since then the Federal Assault Weapons Ban the Campaign advocated has been allowed to expire; legislation protecting gun manufacturers and dealers against lawsuits by crime victims has been enacted in Congress and in several States; and the pro-gun opinions of former senator John Ashcroft did not impede his confirmation as Attorney General in 2001.


James Brady and Sarah Brady have been influential in the movement since at least the mid-80s. Mrs. Brady replaced Pete Shields as chair in 1989. Shields had held the position since 1978.

From 2000 to May 2006 former Maryland Congressman Michael D. Barnes was the president of the Brady Campaign. He was succeeded by former Fort Wayne, Indiana mayor Paul Helmke.

Stated mission

As stated on the Brady Campaign's website, "we work to enact and enforce reasonable gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support gun laws, and increasing public awareness of gun violence." The Brady Campaign is recognized in the United States as a leading gun control advocacy organization, and has helped spearhead gun-control legislation at state and national levels.

Although in 1976, HCI's chairman stated that the long-term goal of the organization was a ban on handgun ownership, the Brady Campaign has since shifted its goals, and no longer promotes a handgun ban.

Past efforts and actions

The Brady Campaign was the chief supporter of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, known as the "Brady Bill", enacted in 1993 after several years of debate; and successfully lobbied for passage of the first-ever Federal assault weapons ban, banning the manufacture and importation of so-called military-style assault weapon", a provision that critics called arbitrary and symbolic. The ban expired in September 2004. This has since been replaced by a computerized background check system.


The Brady Campaign has labeled semi-automatic or self-loading rifles as "assault weapons," raising criticism over the use of an ill-defined term. Additionally, the Campaign has in the past called for a ban of non-existent "plastic guns", and description of hollow-point handgun ammunition as "cop-killers". This information was widely exploited by media outlets, despite the fact that most types of hollow-point ammunition actually penetrate less than conventional jacketed rounds, thus being incapable of penetrating police department-issue Kevlar vests.

Identity confusion

As noted previously, the Brady Campaign was founded in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH). The organization was re-dubbed the Brady Campaign in part to emphasize that its goal was not to ban handguns, but to promote gun safety. Possibly contributing to confusion about the Campaign's role was the similarly-named National Council to Ban Handguns, subsequently known as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (and also started in 1974). These two organizations, the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH) and the National Council to Ban Handguns were entirely separate organizations.

Further reading

  • "A Reporter At Large: Handguns," The New Yorker, July 26, 1976, pp. 57-58
  • "First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws" The CDC, October 3, 2003

See also


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