Breaking: James Brady, symbol in gun control movement, dies at 73

James and Sarah Brady

James Brady, left, looks at his wife, Sarah, during a news conference in Washington on the 30th anniversary of the shooting. (Photo credit: AP/Evan Vucci)

James Brady, the White House press secretary who was permanently disabled when a gunman opened fire on President Ronald Reagan and then became a symbol for the gun control movement, died at age 73 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Brady was one of four people shot by John Hinckley, Jr. on March 30, 1981, during an assassination attempt on Reagan. Although no one was killed, the gunshot wound to Brady’s head left him with slurred speech and partial paralysis.

In the aftermath of the shooting, authorities learned that Hinckley provided false information when he bought the gun used in the shooting at a pawnshop in Dallas. Brady dedicated his time to prevent such transactions by advocating for mandatory background checks of gun purchases.

Following the shooting, Brady and his wife chaired Handgun Control, Inc., later renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, to lobby for more federal regulations on gun sales.

In 1993, congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which requires that a federal firearms licensee must conduct a background check on a gun buyer before finalizing the transaction.

“Jim never gave up fighting and never lost his trademark wit despite suffering a traumatic brain injury after being shot in 1981 by a mentally unstable young man attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign. “Since then, he and Sarah have worked tirelessly to pass legislation that makes it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns.”

“We are heartbroken over the passing of James Brady,” Gross said. “We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Sarah, and the rest of his family as we mourn the loss of our dear friend and a true American hero.”