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Learning about politics from the Brady Bill - The Galveston County Daily News: Guest Columns

July 23, 2016

Learning about politics from the Brady Bill

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Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 12:10 am

James Brady passed away last week. This time, the press reports of his passing were accurate.

Mr. Brady’s death was publicly, and prematurely, announced March 30, 1981. On that day, John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.

Hinckley wounded President Reagan, Washington, D.C., police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and White House Press Secretary James Brady.

Brady’s wounds were the most severe. He took a bullet to the head and within hours many news outlets prematurely announced his death. As it was, Brady suffered traumatic brain injury and was left paralyzed from the neck down.

In the fall of 1993, with Brady in attendance, Congress passed the Brady Bill. This bill dealt with gun control and was opposed by the National Rifle Association.

Curiously, the NRA at the same time was promoting a gun control bill that was even more restrictive. The fall of 1993 would mark the last time the NRA did not throw the proverbial kitchen sink at any efforts to restrict the Second Amendment.

While the Brady Bill mandated background checks and waiting times, the NRA version created a gun-owner federal database as was already the law in Virginia.

The question occupying Washington politicians that fall was which gun control bill to vote for. There were three — Brady’s, the NRA’s and a third that had no chance.

It was a forgone conclusion that one of the three was going to pass. So, why did the Brady Bill pass when the NRA’s more restrictive version was acknowledged by virtually everyone to be the better solution? Because James Brady knew most of the senators voting on the bill. Period. It’s that simple.

The weaker legislation won. And in Brady’s legislative victory, Galveston could learn a lesson.

The ability to get desired legislation passed is rarely, if ever, found in the best solution to a problem. Often successful legislation is a result of building relationships and coalitions that produce the desired result.

Without those Congressional relationships or a defining national experience (i.e., 9/11), most legislation often dies a lonely death.

Congressional hearing rooms are filled on a daily basis with the smartest people on the planet offering up their best ideas to America’s leaders. It would be logical to believe that wisdom wins the day. But this is politics. More often than not those experts leave Capitol Hill frustrated that their message seemed to not even be heard.

Galveston and its leaders should learn from James Brady. Relationships are the underpinning of getting a bill through Congress, not superior ideas. Use our limited resources accordingly.