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James Brady, Gun Control Campaigner And Presidential Spokesman, Dies


James Brady, a former White House press secretary and gun control advocate, has died, his family announced. He was 73.  He was also from Southern Illinois, and attended the University of Illinois.

Brady, an Illinois native, served as spokesman for President Ronald Reagan. He was struck in the head by a bullet intended for the president during an assassination attempt in 1981.

Brady was also a University of Illinois graduate, receiving a B.S. in Communications in 1962.

Asked by NPR's Scott Simon in 2011 how often he thinks about that day, Brady said: "As little as possible. I've worked very hard at forgetting as much about that as I possibly can. But I've not been unable to do it."

The 1993 law mandating federal background checks for handgun purchases was named for Brady, as has been the White House press briefing room.

“Jim Brady of Centralia, Illinois never let an assassin's bullet stop his smile or his determination to make America a safer nation," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, in a statement.  “Jim and Sarah Brady played a key role in my 1996 campaign and appeared with me around the state. Jim was a proud Republican but he strongly supported my position calling for background checks before firearms sales. Traveling the state with Jim and Sarah I saw firsthand that gun violence limited his body but never dimmed his spirit or the devotion of his wife.

"The “Brady Bill” was landmark legislation requiring background checks to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands," said Gov. Pat Quinn, in a statement of his own.  "As the nation watched, the bill was signed into law in 1993 and has undoubtedly saved thousands of lives."

Although Brady returned to the White House only briefly, he was allowed to keep the title of presidential press secretary and his White House salary until Reagan left office in January 1989.