Sarah and James Brady Reflect on Working Toward Peace

About twenty years have passed since John Hinckley Jr. fired the shots that severely wounded my husband, Jim, and drastically changed our family's life forever. Unfortunately, our experience is far from unique. Since that time, the same tragedy has struck hundreds of thousands of American families. Consider this: In just one year guns are used to kill more than thirty thousand Americans, and thousands more are injured. The fear of gun violence alone affects the quality of life of every American, even those who have never experienced it firsthand. What we forget is that living in fear does not have to be an inevitable part of life in America.

But it wasn't Jim's near-fatal shooting that moved me to get involved on the issue of gun violence. It was my role as a mother that spurred me into action. In 1985, my son Scott, then five years old, picked up a loaded pistol left in a family friend's car and, thinking it was a toy, pointed it at me. The gun was a .22, the same kind of gun John Hinckley used to shoot Jim. Fortunately, this time, no one was hurt. But I thought to myself, what kind of world do we live in where five-year-olds and mentally unstable people can easily get their hands on guns? I became determined to do whatever I could to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy we had. So I picked up the phone and called Handgun Control. And I've been at it ever since.

The good news is that we have already begun to reverse the tide of gun violence sweeping across the country. Tough gun control laws, like the Brady Law, named for my husband, and the federal assault weapons ban have proven to be successful at keeping the wrong guns out of the wrong people's hands and have helped save lives. But more still needs to be done.

We are a nation awash with guns. It is estimated that there are more than 200 million guns in America. That's almost one gun for every man, woman, and child. The widespread availability of guns, especially handguns and assault weapons, to criminals and children in this country spurs lethal violence on a frighteningly regular basis. Today in America, more than eleven children are killed by guns every day. Altogether, we lose close to 100 people to gun violence daily. Guns are still the second leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, after motor vehicle-related incidents.

If guns made us safer, as the powerful gun lobby likes to argue, then we'd already be the safest country in the world. But sadly, America is the most violent industrialized country on earth. Consider: In 1996, handguns murdered 213 people in Germany, 106 in Canada, 30 in Great Britain-and 9,390 in the United States. In a nation that rightfully calls itself the last remaining superpower, this is a travesty of our strength and our ideals. And, a nation that glorifies guns should not be surprised when children act out their darkest fantasies with those same weapons, as happened in all-American towns like Jonesboro, Arkansas; Paducah, Kentucky; Springfield, Oregon; and Littleton, Colorado.

I am optimistic that we can change-that there will be a time in Jim's and my lifetime when we will no longer be afraid of guns invading our schools, workplaces, places of worship, parks, shopping malls, and homes. Our fight is not over.

Getting involved in the gun control movement did not feel like a choice. I felt that my personal experience compelled me to do so. The honor of working for a cause in which Jim and I truly believe has been a reward in itself.



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