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James Brady, former Reagan press secretary and gun-control advocate, dies

By Dan Merica, CNN
updated 7:50 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • James Brady was seriously wounded in the 1981 attempt on Ronald Reagan's life
  • He became one of the most prominent gun-control advocates
  • Brady inspired a law named for him that requires background checks on gun purchases
  • He made an ad for gun-control advocate Gabby Giffords, also wounded in a shooting

(CNN) -- James Brady, a former White House press secretary who was severely wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and later became a prominent gun-control advocate, has died.

Brady died at 73 after a series of health issues, his family said in a statement on Monday.

"Over the years, Jim inspired so many people as he turned adversity into accomplishment," the statement said.

2011: James, Sarah Brady on Giffords

Brady was one of four people hurt in Reagan's shooting by John Hinckley outside a Washington hotel.

Suffering a head wound, it was erroneously reported at one point that Brady had died. He was, however, left partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

James Brady, a former White House press secretary who became a prominent gun-control advocate after he was wounded in the 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life, died Monday, August 4. He was 73. James Brady, a former White House press secretary who became a prominent gun-control advocate after he was wounded in the 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life, died Monday, August 4. He was 73.
Gun-control advocate James Brady
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Gun-control advocate James Brady Gun-control advocate James Brady

Reagan, severely wounded as well, also survived the attack and served two terms as President. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting and has spent the ensuing years in a psychiatric hospital.

Gun control advocate James Brady dies
David Gergen describes Reagan attack
Reagan assassination attempt

After leaving the White House, Brady launched the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which pushes for stricter firearms laws.

He inspired the Brady Bill, which was fiercely fought over for years before Congress approved it and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993. It requires background checks for gun purchases.

Opinion: The man who made people talk about guns

President Barack Obama praised Brady's legacy.

"Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service," Obama said in a statement.

The Brady Campaign also acknowledged his death in a tweet: "We are heartbroken over James Brady's passing. We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Sarah, and their family."

Opinion: Congress, finish the job on Brady background checks

Brady was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award. The White House press briefing room also was named in his honor.

Marlin Fitzwater, Reagan's longest-serving press secretary, remembered Brady as an enormous talent.

"He knew how information flowed in the city of Washington and he had a great sense of humor that the press liked and respected," Fitzwater told CNN. "He is a remarkable guy who will be remembered well by everyone who knew him."

Brady's gun activism included lending a hand to other organizations with similar goals.

He and his wife, Sarah, appeared in a 2011 ad for the group Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization formed by former congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's and her husband, Mark Kelly, after she was shot and severely wounded at a campaign event in Arizona.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan said Brady was a wise counselor whose judgment her husband trusted.

"Jim was the personification of courage and perseverance. He and Sarah never gave up, and never stopped caring about the causes in which they believed," she said in a statement.

James Brady on gun control and mental illness

Remembering Reagan assassination attempt

Opinion: James Brady: The warrior, the hero, the 'Bear'

People we've lost in 2014

CNN's Dana Davidsen, Steve Brusk and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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