1996 DNC Keynote Address
August 26, 1996
Mrs. Brady: Jim, we must have made a wrong turn. This isn't San Diego.
Mr. Brady: Sarah, I told you, this is the Democrat Convention.
Mrs. Brady: And we thank you deeply for this wonderful invitation. Fifteen years ago, Jim was White House press secretary. Our son Scott, who is up here, was just 2 years old. All our dreams had come true. But then one rainy afternoon in March, our dreams were shattered by an assassination attempt on President Reagan. President Reagan was shot and so was Jim. We almost lost Jim that day. And we almost lost the President. But thanks to the heroism of the Secret Service and the determination of the physicians and staff at George Washington Hospital, Jim lived. And so did the President, thank God. But our lives would never be quite the same. All it took was one gun, one bullet, and one man, who should never have owned a gun.
Every year in this country, nearly 40,000 Americans are killed with a firearm. More than 100,000 are wounded. Every two hours, another child is killed with a firearm. And with each death, and each wound, another American dream, another American family, is shattered. This must stop.
Jim and I decided that we should do something about it, not as Republicans but as Americans. I became chair of Handgun Control, and Jim and I joined together in speaking out against gun violence. We've traveled from coast-to-coast during the past 10 years. We've met thousands of gun violence victims and their families. Their stories continue to break our hearts, especially those involving the children. That's why we supported legislation that would require a waiting period for the purchase of a handgun. The idea was simple: establish a cooling-off period and give police the time they need to conduct a background check on the buyer. Introduced in 1987, the Brady Bill was an overnight success. Every major law enforcement group endorsed it. So did former Presidents Reagan, Carter, Ford and Nixon. In fact, nine out of ten Americans supported a waiting period. It just made sense. But year after year, the gun lobby defeated the Brady Bill. The National Rifle Association said that seven days or even seven hours was just too long to wait to buy a handgun. It was an inconvenience. Well, listen: our family can tell the gun lobby a little bit about inconvenience.
Mr. Brady: And will.
Mrs. Brady: And about the despair and the pain that can result from a gunshot wound. But don't take our word for it. Ask anyone whose life has been touched by gun violence.
In 1991, both Houses of Congress passed the Brady Bill. Oh, Jim and I were elated. But the gun lobby and the threat of a presidential veto again killed the Brady Bill. We quickly learned the value of having a President who is really committed to putting an end to gun violence. And four years ago, the American people elected just such a President. President Bill Clinton, in his first State of the Union address told Congress, "If you pass the Brady Bill, I'll sure sign it." After seven-after seven long years,
Congress finally passed the Brady Bill and President Clinton kept his promise. He signed it into law. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President.
That moment was the proudest moment of our lives. And let me tell you why. Since the Brady Law went into effect on February 28, 1994, the Brady Law has stopped more than 100,000 convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers from buying a handgun-100,000. Today and every day, the Brady Law is stopping an estimated 85 felons from buying a handgun. But we need to do more.
We should, as President Clinton proposed today, stop people convicted of domestic violence from buying a handgun. Jim and I are proud to join with you tonight in saluting the great job that President Clinton has done in fighting crime and violence. He's a hunter and he's a sportsman but he understands the difference between a Remington rifle and an AK-47 and he knows that you don't go hunting with an Uzi. Mr President, you deserve our thanks.
Mr. Brady: And a big bear thumbs up.
Mrs. Brady: Butbut gun violence is not a Democrat or a Republican problem. It's a problem that affects each and every one of us. Yes, it wasit was a Democrat Congress which passed the Brady Bill, and a Democrat President who signed it, but we could never have passed the Brady Bill without the support of a lot of Republicans, including former President Ronald Reagan. And weand we could never have passed it without the support of the law enforcement community.
But now, now we need your help. This battle is not about guns. It's about families. It's about children. It's about our future. You can't have stronger families without safer children. The gun lobby likes to say that Jim and I are trying to take guns away from hunters and sportsmen. The gun lobby is wrong. To the hunters and sportsmen of America, we say keep your guns. But just give us the laws that we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of children.
In 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy expressed his great optimism about ending gun violence in America. He told a crowd of supporters in Los Angeles that we're a great country, an unselfish country, a compassionate country. Moments later, an assassin's bullet took his life. But he was right then, and he is right now. We are a great country. We're a compassionate country. Jim ad I are full of hope. With all of us working together, we can restore peace in our neighborhoods. We can eliminate random gun violence. And we can preserve the American dream for all of us. But please, don't do it for Sarah and Jim Brady.
Mr. Brady: Do it for all our children. Thank you and continue to have a great convention.