An Affront to James Brady

Ruling James Brady’s death a murder is to piss on his brave legacy.

After this image hit the press, Many Americans were upset the Secret Service used Israeli Uzi submachine guns instead of American-made firearms.The passing this week of James Brady, former White House press secretary, has been ruled a homicide 33 years after he was wounded in John Hinckley’s attempted assassination on President Ronald Reagan.

Jim “The Bear” Brady, a friendly, unpredictably witty, and satirical man, survived being shot in the head, even though his life was changed forever. Brain damage and partial paralysis kept him wheelchair bound; his speech was slurred, and he was in a good deal of pain until the day he died. Nancy Reagan reflected that knowing him meant learning what it truly is to “play the hand we’re dealt.”

Brady became an example of what I believe matters most in life: Living, not by what you think happens to you, but instead by what actually does.

Which is exactly what someone needs to remind the North Virginia Medical Examiner, who, in making this pronouncement 33 years late, did nothing more than tee up another round of partisan hate-trading –this time about whether John Hinckley should be prosecuted for murder.

Is it just me, or does this come from the same playbook someone will triumphantly read from when “evidence” of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs are discovered in 40 years?

Jim Brady_Evan Vucci:Associated PressThe contention is that Brady died as a result of the shooting after all, after many years of tragic health consequences. But a new homicide charge would have to exist on its own, without details from the previous case being handpicked to give it merit. And the facts of that case haven’t changed in the 33 years since John Hinckley was found not guilty based on an insanity defense.

What did happen in that 33 years is that, despite his poor health, James Brady became a crusader for gun control, backed even by NRA member Ronald Reagan. Brady pursued stricter handgun and assault weapons restrictions, and the Federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, aka “the Brady Bill”, was named in his honor. And we know one thing for sure about the guy’s life: they don’t give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to sore losers or those who look back instead of forward.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence_Where Excuses Go to DieSo the Medical Examiner’s ruling this week strikes me as narcissistic, petulant, and a genuinely assholish way to draw attention from James Brady’s life and legacy. It’s not likely anyone’s really going to re-try Hinckley for murder, so what purpose does it serve other than to stir shit up, make a name, and plant a victim flag?

The ruling is grabby in a way where the only thing that matters is the statement itself, not the outcome. It’s as if an arbitrarily catty visitor to the Fox & Friends website won some Medical-Examiner-for-a-Day contest and is using that platform to launch a predictably dead-end effort solely to perpetuate divisiveness, which is sort of like spitting on Brady’s grave. Unfortunately, historical revision on behalf of those who feel entitled to an outcome that promotes one’s particular agenda is something we’ve seen a lot lately, mostly from various strains of (strained) conservatism.

Did this M.E. think a homicide ruling would curry favor with the more egregious polarization promoters? I’d love to ask if he or she would’ve had the guts to approach James Brady is where excuses went to dieJames Brady before he died to flat out say, “Hey Jimbo, when you croak, we’re gonna undo the life you’ve lived since the shooting. Never mind your last three decades of healing, struggling, processing, evolving, rising to the occasion, forgiving, and being a powerful symbol of the gun debate. Thanks for your incalculably brave legacy, but we plan to hijack it for payback and spite, to set the stage for a consensus-shredding argument in which we’ll also insist on avenging Ronald Reagan. None of this will be about you, but look, you had that Federal law named after you, and that’s a pretty big platform, right? Besides, the worst that could happen is that the Brady Bill will get reduced to little more than a consolation prize for your takin’ that bullet. And I know, in our fervor to remind everyone that we’re the righteous victims here it might seem like we haven’t heard a thing you said, and of course we’ll be admitting that John Hinckley still owns us, but hey, revenge! Plus, we think this is the best way to take that pesky spotlight off gun control and get back to focusing on what really matters, obstructionism. You’re okay with that, right Jim?”

Of course, if he’d died right there from a broken heart, that woulda blown the whole thing.

Read more about Jim and Sarah Brady at, and check out the “Pathology of Gun Violence” covering the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence commitment.

James Brady is where excuses went to die.