United States – -(AmmoLand.com)- 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.
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, Strategypage.com, and other national websites.