Jim Brady, President Ronald Reagan's smooth-talking press secretary, hasn't stopped speaking his mind, forcefully and poignantly. He made that clear from the Capitol to the White House on the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt that paralyzed him.
"I wouldn't be here in this damn wheelchair if we had commonsense legislation," Brady said Wednesday at a Capitol Hill news conference, joined by his wife, Sarah, and lawmakers in calling for gun control legislation. The Bradys head the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"Fight fiercely," Brady, 70, told the audience.
Later Wednesday he delivered a similar message at the White House after meeting with President Barack Obama, who has taken a cautious stance on gun control. The president has declined to endorse some of the legislation supported by the Bradys.
The Bradys said Obama expressed agreement with their goals but said that he's learned since coming to Washington that things take time.
"It takes two years to make Minute Rice," Brady said he told Obama about the pace of progress in Washington.
The gunman, John Hinckley Jr., shot Brady in the head during the attack on Reagan outside a Washington hotel in 1981.
Hinckley, who said he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster, also wounded a Secret Service agent and a District of Columbia police officer. Hinckley was declared mentally incompetent and consigned to a Washington mental institution where he remains today, with family visiting rights.
Asked what he remembers about that day, Brady said: "Not being the same person that I was. I used to be a track runner. No more. But I am not going to run away from this."
The Bradys were joined on Capitol Hill by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., who have introduced bills to ban the kinds of large-capacity assault clips used in the January attack in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who's recuperating from a bullet to the brain.
Obama has not endorsed that legislation, although he was once an outspoken supporter of the now-defunct ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 after Congress failed to renew it. Obama has tempered his language on guns since becoming president, adopting a stance that acknowledges the political reality that supporting gun control measures can hurt Democrats at the ballot box. The president called earlier this month for a new national conversation on gun safety in the wake of Giffords' shooting, but it's not clear what if anything will come of it.
Brady wore a blue bracelet Wednesday with Giffords' name on it and told reporters at the White House that he showed it to the president.
"There were so many similarities to mine that it hurt a lot," he said of the congresswoman's shooting. Brady spoke to reporters in the White House press briefing room, which is named in his honor the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.
Secret Service website with audio: http://tinyurl.com/688a46z
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: http://www.bradycampaign.org/