Michael Bloomberg Picks Up James Brady’s Legacy Where Republicans Abandoned It

Michael Bloomberg


Metaphorically speaking, it’s been a hot, violent and angry summer virtually the world over. A June 20 report from the UN News Centre offered that “the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.” Bearing in mind that figure was proposed over two months ago, it’s worth wondering if it has crept upward. Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Israel and Gaza, children from Central America, parts of Africa – I supposed even Edward Snowden is counted in that tally.

America is grappling with civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City where recent evidence of police overreach and brutality have sparked demonstrations met with additional law enforcement violence. It’s tempting to liken these scenes to those of the 1960s and that decade’s Civil Rights movement, only with more smartphone cameras, tanks and sniper rifles.

Yet there is something demoralizing, alongside the inspiring scenes of community inspiration and activism, about the centuries-running persecution of young black American men by law enforcement and the judicial system. Something despairing in the repetitiveness and routine which the black male body is threatened, even as Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wrote for the majority in last year’s Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, “Our country has changed.”

President Obama and the White House team are struggling to strike the right foreign policy note in an era where the United States can no longer monetarily or morally afford to police the globe. Yet it remains glaringly obvious that we can and should do more to combat one of the greatest threats to human life of any color right here at home – gun violence. Though it is certain that racist cops and citizens would find another weapon for expressing their vitriolic hate in the absence of a loaded gun, we don’t have to continue making execution so easy.

In this season of discontent, we lost a legend in the crusade for sensible gun reform. James S. Brady, the former White House press secretary for Ronald Reagan, died earlier this month, more than 30 years after being wounded in an assassination attempt on the President in Washington D.C. As New York Times writer James Barron wrote in an August 4 story for the paper, “The bullet damaged the right section of his brain, paralyzing his left arm, weakening his left leg, damaging his short-term memory and impairing his speech. Just getting out of a car became a study in determination.”

Had Brady retreated into a quiet life of retirement after the incident, who could have blamed him? Instead, Barron explains, “What Mr. Brady became was an advocate of tough restrictions on the sale of handguns like the $29 pawnshop special that Mr. Hinckley [Brady’s shooter] had bought with false identification. ‘I wouldn’t be here in this damn wheelchair if we had common-sense legislation,’ Mr. Brady said in 2011.”

Brady’s advocacy helped usher in a wave of reforms in the 1990s, such as The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and a federal ban on assault weapons. Unfortunately, the Republican legend lived to see a reignited NRA lobby intimidate lawmakers into rolling back signature pieces of legislation. The assault weapon ban expired in 2004 and numerous attempts to reintroduce it have been summarily thwarted.

With so much hysterical partisanship and misinformation surrounding the Second Amendment, and amidst sustained inaction on Capitol Hill, it’s fair to wonder at the specter of sane gun policy. The NRA has a big budget and cowering lawmakers at its heels, while Democrats fear being tarred and feathered as enemies of the Constitution. Thankfully there is still one big name taking on the gun lobby, a man with plenty of money in the chest and no stated desire to seek another public office. This slight, and slightly snooty, billionaire might seem a strange heir apparent to the Brady tradition, but we’ll take it.

In an August 21 piece for the Times entitled, “The N.R.A. Versus Michael Bloomberg,” Francis X. Clines writes:

“Mr. Bloomberg’s organization, ‘Everytown for Gun Safety,’ aims to hold its own in this electioneering face-off. The former mayor’s spokesman, Stu Loeser, said a strong gun-safety message helped defeat candidates last year in Illinois, California and Virginia. ‘This November, we will help defeat others who have made the mistake of aligning with the N.R.A.,’ vowed Mr. Loeser.”

James Brady was a rare conservative voice who came to believe through tragic experience that a citizen’s right to bear arms should be balanced by the collective claim to life and security. It is sad that as Brady aged, members of his party failed to coalesce around him, opting instead for a cynical approach to policy that has made the fear of public massacre a generally rational one. The scrappy, snappy Bloomberg may seem an unlikely heir apparent to Brady’s call for Second Amendment sanity, but finally we have a pet cause from a one percenter that’s in everyone’s interest.

11 Replies to “Michael Bloomberg Picks Up James Brady’s Legacy Where Republicans Abandoned It”

  1. It hasn’t been just James Brady the Republicans have turned their backs on, remember what they did to Bob Dole a couple of years ago?

    Former Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole came to the Senate floor Tuesday to make a personal appeal for lawmakers to ratify a United Nations treaty for people with disabilities.

    In a touching moment, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who also uses a wheelchair and has publicly urged the Senate to ratify the treaty, joined Dole at one point, holding hands with him as they talked and listened to Kerry.

    “Don’t let Sen. Bob Dole down,” Kerry told senators, gesturing toward Dole.

    Rachel Maddow had this to say via Facebook:

    “The spectacle of Senate Republicans voting against the UN treaty on the rights of the disabled — and walking past Bob Dole in a wheelchair on their way to do it — should be news, real and big news.”

  2. The best way to put a clamp down on gun selling/ gun running is to have mutual funds and institutional investors divest in weapons manufacturers. Sort of what happened during the anti-apartheid days. Just take your money out of any fund or company that invests in gun mfrs.

  3. “Yet it remains glaringly obvious that we can and should do more to combat one of the greatest threats to human life of any color right here at home – gun violence. Though it is certain that racist cops and citizens would find another weapon for expressing their vitriolic hate in the absence of a loaded gun, we don’t have to continue making execution so easy.”

    So are you going to disarm the cops too? Or are you suggesting that citizens remain defenseless in the fact of “racist cops” and an out-of-control military-industrial complex?

  4. In 2010 there were 8775 people murdered by firearms in the US which works out to about 24 people per day. These are the “word doctored” figures the news media and anti-gun folks like to publicize because people relate to the magnitude of those numbers and it sounds like a lot of people until you realize this is out of a population of 310 million Americans. In that context, it works out to about 1 person out of every 35,000 people being murdered by a firearm. Dwell on the magnitude of your individual significance next time you are in a stadium with 35,000 people. If 1 in 35,000 is too high what number would ever satisfy you to the point you would say “we don’t need any more restrictions on the private ownership of firearms”? Ban all the guns and a determined individual could have used something else. Imagine the carnage and suffering if the Newtown killer had used a homemade flamethrower and accomplished the task in half the time. What would you do then? Ban gasoline.

  5. In 1934, 1968, 1986, 1990, 1993 and 1994 I suspect similar arguments were made for “sane gun policy” when more restrictive gun laws were passed. Since all of the regulations derived from these laws are apparently not enough, maybe you can understand the reluctance of gun owners to entertain the idea of quietly accepting the any more. The problem is the real agenda of the people leading the charge for more gun control is to ban all guns except for the government and governments (unlike individuals) have the track record for killing people that don’t agree with them. This is really just about using relatively infrequent, isolated incidents of gun violence to whip lawmakers into an emotional frenzy to goad them into quickly advancing the agenda of gun control irrespective of any facts in more incremental “progressive” steps in order to set a new baseline and move the goal posts to the point where an unscrupulous government could do what ever they please.

  6. Re: “we don’t have to continue making execution so easy”

    More restrictions on civilian gun ownership will certainly make it easier to execute law-abiding citizens if they are not allowed to have firearms to defend themselves. Criminals will always have guns if they want them. If worst comes to worst they will be smuggled into the US from Mexico inside a bale of marijuana and sold on the black market.


    What is it about the unalienability of the people’s right to arms in common use that have military utility that eludes you?

  8. Armed men are citizens, unarmed men are subjects, just that simple. Gun control has never lowered crime rates. Gun Free Zones have insured safe environments for criminals. This is the United States, we the people control the government and police and we intend to keep it that way, Bloomberg be damned!

  9. What a line of BS. The states that have the highest gun ownership have the highest kill rates. Guns do not make anyone safe.

    “Armed men are citizens, unarmed men are subjects”

    You have no idea how insane you sound spouting that garbage. This is 2014. Didnt insane wayne tell you? You actually think you have power owning a gun? You are more naive then most 8 year olds

  10. #10: Assault by firearm
    Odds of dying: 1 in 300
    America is the gun violence capital of the world. According to FBI crime statistics, there were 9,146 murders by firearm in 2009. Like death by accidental gun discharge, death rates for assault by firearm in the U.S. are also disproportionate to similar countries. It has the highest rate of firearm deaths among 25 high-income nations and more disturbingly, the overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children under age 15 is 12 times higher than the death rates of these 25 high-income nations combined.
    The risk of dying by gunshot has halved since Australia destroyed 700,000 privately owned firearms, according to a new study published today in the international research journal, Injury Prevention.
    While the rates per 100,000 of total firearm deaths, firearm suicides and firearm homicides were already reducing by an average of 3 per cent each year until 1996, these average rates of decline doubled to 6 per centeach year (total gu…

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