Thanks to the Brady Bill, gun control will never again be debated reasonably

It has been 33 years since a failed assassination attempt shocked the world, changed the world and helped make sure those kind of changes would never happen again.

Sunday marks the 33rd anniversary of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr.

Hinckley was our nation’s strangest assassin. He watched the movie “Taxi Driver” and somehow became equally obsessed with the fictional character played by Robert De Niro and the real-life actress Jodi Foster.

Hinckley saw trying to kill Reagan as a way to live the life of the taxi driver and get the attention of Foster who was a student at Yale. Thankfully, his attempt to kill the President and impress Foster failed.

But his attempt to get away with it worked. He was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity after his defense attorneys played the movie for the jury to show how emotionally and mentally twisted their client was.

I have covered a lot of trials and seen a lot of video in courtrooms. Usually, the video is either a crime scene or pained testimony of the victims.

Getting to watch a great movie during the trial would make jury duty less of a hassle.

Hinckley’s not guilty by reason of insanity sentence led to several states changing the law to limit how insanity pleas can be used.

Hinckley’s lack of accuracy also led to a change in gun control in America and bolstered groups who fight against further restrictions.

Hinckley hit Reagan with one of the six bullets he fired. However, Reagan recovered far more quickly than did his Press Secretary who was struck in the head with a stray round.

James Brady was permanently paralyzed and affected mentally and emotionally by Hinckley’s stray bullet.

As Brady recovered, he and his wife became supporters of legislation to support a 7-day waiting period before a purchased gun could become the property of the purchaser.

I worked for Congressman Dave McCurdy in his Norman, Okla. office while this bill was being debated. McCurdy, being a moderate Democrat, was in favor of the measure.

Many of his constituents were not. Oklahoma was in a rapid transition from a Democratic state that voted Republican in national elections to a top-down Red State and would soon become one of the reddest in the nation.

The venom and vitriol I heard on the other end of the phone from angry gun-toting constituents was shocking to a recent college graduate like me. I felt bad having to type up the content of the calls in daily emails to our D.C. office.

But after heated debate more than a dozen years after a man who had been arrested on illegal gun charges got another gun and tried to shoot the President, the Brady Bill with its waiting period were signed into law.

To me, it seemed like a reasonable compromise. The Brady Bill increases public safety by helping ensure that only qualified gun owners are running around legally armed. I don’t understand arguments that the mentally ill, felons or those convicted of domestic violence charges have the right to own guns.

It has been 20 years since the Brady Bill became law and the horrid slippery slope arguments have fallen flat. No American Gestapo has marched down Main St. stripping citizens of their guns to complete a totalitarian government takeover.

But the main lesson learned from the passage of the Brady Bill was learned by the National Rifle Association.

The NRA saw how using a high-profile victim to put a face on the problem of lax gun laws would cause rational people to understand that reasonable restrictions are no more intrusive on liberty than speed limits.

But thanks to the Brady Bill, gun control will never again be debated reasonably.

Even large numbers of school shootings, mall shootings, and shootings in general result in gun control advocates calling for change and the NRA and its allies telling us to blame the shooter, not the weapon.

One act, by one crazy man trying to impress an actress tilted our society off of its axis forever. It makes you wonder what will happen tomorrow that will have immediate and lingering effects.

As a society, we need to learn to process and debate information with less passion and more perspective.


Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: