March 30, 1981, seemed to be just another day in DC. Then President Ronald Reagan and his staff were leaving the Washington Hilton after the President delivered a midday speech. Just as Reagan was heading towards his presidential limousine, John Hinckley, Jr., opened fire. Hinckley fired his "Saturday Night Special" Rohm AG-15 at Reagan in hopes of convincing Jodie Foster to date him.
Reagan was shot in the chest and the lower right arm. And even though his lung was punctured, the President was able to fully recover from his injuries.
Then White House Press Secretary James Brady was also shot. A bullet hit his head. He was also rushed to the hospital. And while he survived the assassination attempt, he did suffer permanent injuries.
On Monday, Jim Brady passed away.
After surviving the shooting, Jim & Sarah (his wife) founded the Brady Campaign. They decided to dedicate their lives to preventing future tragedies like the one they experienced. They committed themselves to stopping rampant gun violence.
And they weren't alone. Even though he had fostered a political legacy suggesting otherwise, Ronald Reagan also took action to curb gun violence. He signed a law banning fully automatic weapons in 1986, penned a New York Times op-ed in support of the Brady Bill (which first established the national background checks system in 1991, and even endorsed the first Assault Weapons Ban in 1994.
Remember, John Hinckley, Jr., used a "Saturday Night Special" he obtained under a false identity in his assassination attempt. And when he was Governor of California in 1967, Reagan teamed with the NRA (??!!) to pass the Mulford Act to prevent the carrying of any loaded firearms at any public location in California. (Back then, both Reagan & the NRA feared the message of armed resistance preached by the Black Panthers.)
Why is it so easy to forget our history? Armed militia movements aren't new. And neither are government regulations of the firearms industry. And neither are regulations meant to prevent criminals from obtaining lethal firearms.
While this isn't new, we haven't seen in a while this brazen call to arms against the rule of law. He may not have invented the American militia movement, but Cliven Bundy has breathed some new life into the extreme anti-government Patriot Movement by declaring a "Range War" against state & federal law. Even now, the Bundy Bunch continue their call to arms in the age old battle between good and evil", a call to arms that Jerad & Amanda Miller, Brent Douglas Cole, and others have been all too willing to take heed.
What is relatively new is the NRA's full embrace of this armed extremism. Once upon a time, the NRA supported a number of gun safety regulations. Only when a slate of radicals took over the NRA board in the late 1970s did the NRA begin to turn around and reflexively oppose any and all gun safety standards... But even this has been a gradual process. Even as recent as 1999, the NRA endorsed expansion of background checks for gun purchases. It wasn't until 2013 when the NRA killed a very modest background checks bill in Congress.
Once upon a time, Republicans like Ronald Reagan championed gun safety laws and the NRA didn't object. After Reagan himself was nearly assassinated and Jim Brady was seriously injured, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to curb gun violence. But now, the NRA encourages "armed resistance" and enables the kind of violence that changed the Brady family's lives forever and nearly killed our 40th President.