Know the Opposition: Brady Campaign

Brady Campaign
Brady Campaign

United States – -( For roughly four decades, the primary organization that has sought to take away our right to keep and bear arms has been the Brady Campaign.

It first started out as the National Council to Control Handguns, then became known as Handgun Control, Inc. In some ways, it was the most dangerous adversary Second Amendment supporters faced. For this article, we’ll just use Brady Campaign, even though some of the actions came as part of their HCI and NCCH incarnations.

Today, this organization has largely been overshadowed by other groups – March 4 Our Lives, Moms Demand Action, and the Giffords Center. In fact, the biggest recent mention of the Brady Campaign in the news was when Dan Gross, a former president of the group, spoke at a pro-Second Amendment rally this past weekend. The fact he made that speech and what he said is why the Brady Campaign was arguably the most dangerous anti-Second Amendment group out there.

In recent years, we have seen a marked shift in the attitudes of anti-Second Amendment extremists. These days, gun ownership itself is demonized. An advice columnist can openly tell a father to put his hatred of guns and gun owners ahead of loving his daughter. That is just one of many instances where gun ownership and support of the Second Amendment is becoming socially stigmatized. A look at the remarks from Gross, on the other hand, reflects what had been, at times, a highly effective strategy against the Second Amendment.

If you want the best description of the Brady Campaign’s strategy and tactics, we need only to hear it from one of its early leaders, Nelson “Pete” Shields. In a 1976 New Yorker article, he said, “The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition – except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors – totally illegal.”

That and other calls for handgun bans hampered the Brady Campaign’s effectiveness, at least until the late 1980s. Then, the organization switched its strategy, and gained some significant success. How they did this is something Second Amendment supporters need to understand in order to better defend our rights in the future.

What they did was to start to target some obscure issues – but they hyped them up, pushing forward poorly-written legislation. For instance, when it came to “cop-killer” bullets, the Brady Campaign pushed a law that would have banned normal centerfire rifle ammo – like the .30-06. The National Rifle Association stood against that – and the Brady Campaign sprung their trap. They had a number of police chiefs appear in ads, asking if the NRA had lost its mind. The tactics worked, pulling in support from suburban voters.

The Brady Campaign then got a boost when Sarah Brady took a more active role after the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The Brady Campaign had long used the relatives of victims of the misuse of firearms as spokespeople for their cause, including Shields. Brady was very effective in this role, using her emotional story to gain support for her agenda despite the facts that shot down her proposed “solutions.”

The plan worked for them – somewhat. With the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, and a Congress willing to consider new infringements on liberty, they made some real gains. They got the Brady Act in 1993, but good damage control by the NRA helped prevent a permanent five-day waiting period. The 1994 semi-auto ban with a ten-year sunset was a pyrrhic win for them, as pro-Second Amendment leadership took the House and Senate in that year’s mid-terms. In 1999, the NRA outmaneuvered them on gun shows and a pro-Second Amendment president won, appointing two justices who proved decisive in the Heller and McDonald cases.

Today, the Brady Campaign is an afterthought when compared to Bloomberg’s groups or March 4 Our Lives. As their former president Gross noted, the effort to infringe our rights has now become, in his words, “an ideological hatred” rather than a well-intentioned but misguided effort to save lives. But we should remember how they were able to succeed. Not only to defend against such tactics in the future but to also use those to defend our rights.

Harold Hu, chison

About Harold Hutchison

Writer Harold Hutchison has more than a dozen years of experience covering military affairs, international events, U.S. politics and Second Amendment issues. Harold was consulting senior editor at Soldier of Fortune magazine and is the author of the novel Strike Group Reagan. He has also written for the Daily Caller, National Review, Patriot Post,, and other national websites.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

After reading this article, I wonder if any elected officials questioned the goals of Mr. Shield’s and company back in the day to eradicate and eliminate private gun ownership which is a God given right. The National Coalition to Ban Handguns as they were known in the early days then changed to the Brady Campaign. Whether its the Brady Campaign, Giffords Group, Moms Demand Action, and any other anti 2A group or organization why aren’t they being investigated for wanting to violate and eradicate one our God given Constitutional Rights? I know there are anti gun politicians at all levels… Read more »


Read my comments above. These “campaigns” and “marches” all spawn from the same fungus: New Left Progressive ideology and institutions. No, Republican politicians did not fight the fight. They did the “John Boehner” when confronted by hard core leftists: assume fetal position, weep. The Republican party is a progressive party. They do not really believe all of the things we as Constitutional Conservatives believe. They will take our votes and our money and then stab us in the back. You are correct that all of these anti liberty groups are subversives. We need to name them as such and confront… Read more »

Heed the Call-up

You are one of the few I have read stating the truth about the Republicans – they are not Conservatives. Unfortunately, they co-opted the term Conservative, as the Democrats did “Liberal”, to confuse the ignorant masses. Up until a few years or so ago, the Democrats were just left of center, and the Republicans were more toward the center, but in no way Conservative. Now, the politicians inhabiting the name “Democrat” are unquestionably, at minimum, Socialists, whether or not they admit it, and many Republicans are only RINOs, and closer to their Democratic brethren then we would like. Unfortunately, the… Read more »


OK, and now for the source of all of these troubles. The source is the Progressive New Left, a morph of former SDS, anti war and other leftist/communist groups who reformed in the early 1970’s to take over the Democratic Party. They have done so. By focusing your arguments on one aspect of their assault on liberty you are ignoring the overall assault. The New Left set out to dominate ALL American institutions in order to impose a Marxist revolution on the US from within bureaucracy. Their march through the institutions is broad based. The reason we, the self reliance… Read more »


WHERE were the ‘conservatives’ in Virginia and Kentucky? Just too busy to vote for liberty and freedom? Too much beer to drink? Basketball on TV?

If you REFUSE to vote, the easy stuff, you most certainly will NOT do the civil war and non-compliance, the hard stuff.
Plan to hand in your guns now. You are doing it to yourselves.

Heed the Call-up

I voted, and my county preserved its Conservative Republican state senator. What I don’t understand is that the local paper is reporting Sturtevant and Coward losing, yet the county site reports them winning with all precincts reporting.


FPC,GOA,SAF lifetime membership Cards should be in every freedom loving Americans wallet even if they don’t have guns! Its about liberty & freedom & rights 4 all people!


“……It first started out as the National Council to Control Handguns…..”

No, Harold, it didn’t. It started out as the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH). This is infuriating. If you can’t get something as simple as that correct please give me one reason why, any reason, why I would want to read another word you’ve printed. This is not an obscure part of gun control history, this is well known to ANYONE who is in the RKBA business.

Your mistakes, follies and foibles are becoming legion. Please stop.


Okay, this is where I eat a huge plate of crow and apologize to Harold. He was absolutely correct in stating the the original startup WAS the National Council To Control Handguns, which morphed into Handgun Control and NCBH. I will State this for all, loud and clear, I was WRONG! Again, my sincerest apologies to Harold.


I have had the very creepy experience of meeting some of these horrible people! Its not just their politics its just their overwhelming hate of people that like freedom or guns! Their acceptance of other people does not exist unless ur a anti commie…but, are the 1st to call 911 for lots of guns to show & save them but, fail to relate what saved them!


So Gross became an anti-rights leader because his brother was killed with a firearm in a city known for gun control. He blamed the gun ,not the criminal, then proceeded to impose that judgement nation wide by every method he could use. As far as I’m concerned, he had no place in a Gun Rights Rally. I do not believe there is anything he could do or say to make up for the damage he has done to our 2ND Amendment rights Not unlike New York City’s Carolyn McCarthy. Her husband and son both shot to death in a Long… Read more »


Sensible gun laws saves lives? What a crock. How about sensible criminal justice that punishes all use of a firearm in an aggressive commission of a crime, with a throw away the key sentence? Quit infringing on decent Americans and actually punish criminals who could care less about their actions. No more plea deals, slap on the wrists or probation. Go straight to jail and loose your freedom for life. Now that’s a deterent. Put some real consequences in the justice system. When they come to your door without due process, that’s draconian but leftists will say no second chances… Read more »


Micheal J — “Sensible Gun Laws” is an inroad to be trodden upon by the left until all guns have been confiscated by this method or that, when everyone knows that bad guys don’t obey these laws. What these social, anti-Constitutionalists do, is use every responsible gun owner’s sense of right and wrong against them, through use of trigger words. After all, if they can gain consensus that “responsible gun owners” are baby killers because a gun was used in a violent crime, like what just took place in Mexico where infants still strapped in their car seats were shot… Read more »


Yes. And Mexico has strict gun control laws that result in outlaws being heavily armed with real automatic weapons, not just AR-15’s, and lawful people being totally unarmed. That is the result of gun control that the left wants to impose on us.

Wild Bill

@MJ, There is only one sensible gun law. The founding fathers wrote it into the Constitution, lest someone in the future forget!


Let them come at us with their leaded pencils declaring this and that, and we will answer them with leaded copper tit for tat.


I’ve been reading some of the comments, and I swear, you guys rock my world. What a blessing it is to have the company you keep, you old fool, when last you thought all the good ones are no more because they’ve been converted to the dark side. Nice to know that I’m not the only one still hunting the undead.


Saw Soros on TV the other night. I swear to you by all that’s holy, I thought I was watching an episode of The Walking Dead. Something tells me that all his money won’t be for shit much longer. Wonder what leftist group and or dirtbag, he’s going to leave it to? What I just love about this, is that if you didn’t earn it you won’t respect it, where a fool and his $$$ will soon be parted.


Oh how I wish you are right, Unfortunately Soros has a son that will continue his demonic goals.


Hey, like StWayne said, he looks like the walking dead. You can’t kill a zombie, they are already dead. Seriously, some relative or group will inherit his ill gotten gains and use it for no good.


Funny how the Anti Second amendment folks always push the same exact failed policies they have for the last half century. Not one new idea at all.

The only thing needed to understand about the opposition is their end goal. Total disarmament. That is what they are trying to achieve for the purpose of destroying our constitution, and they will not stop until they achieve it.