Former White House Press Secretary James Brady in the White House Briefing Room, June 16, 2009.
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20 years after the Brady Bill, where do we stand on gun laws?

Twenty years ago this week, President Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act in response to the erratic actions of a disturbed young male that would leave President Ronald Reagan and three others, including his Press Secretary James Brady, critically wounded.

The Brady Bill, as it would be known, required federal background checks and established a seven-day waiting period for firearm purchases across the country.

In a move that would seem anthetical to the current Republican Party, President Reagan endorsed the legislation in a 1991 New York Times op-ed titled “Why I’m For the Brady Bill. He wrote: “This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now – the Brady bill – had been law back in 1981.”

As one of the last sweeping gun control packages passed by Congress, gun safety-advocates – like those at the nonpartisan Brady Campaign to Fight Gun Violence – say the legislation has been instrumental in keeping millions of firearms away from criminals, felons, and the mentally unstable.

The Brady Campaign released a new ad in celebration of the 20th anniversary, asking members of the public to urge their members of Congress to “finish the job” and pass a bill for universal background checks – supported by 90% of Americans.

But in the two decades since the law was enacted, political discourse regarding gun control has only grown more volatile.

Candidates’ positions on firearms serve as a litmus test during campaign seasons, with interest groups, Super PACS, and lobbyists working to defeat potential office holders or in some instances recalling incumbents from office altogether based on their gun-related voting records. 

And while the national push for gun control reform seems stalled, those seeking change have taken to the various states in order usher in regulations that would loosen or tighten gun restrictions.

New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Colorado, and Delaware have all enacted sweeping gun control laws in the last year – tightening regulations and closing loopholes in existing legislation. However, these measures continue to face court challenges by pro-gun supporters. At the same time, more than a dozen states have loosened gun regulations and several others, like California, are still considering firearm related measures within their respective legislatures.

It’s been 20 years since The Brady Bill. Now, the change lies in the nation’s statehouses. 

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20 years after the Brady Bill, where do we stand on gun laws?