We're Survivor-Led and Founded

As the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention group, Brady’s history of bipartisan leadership and progress goes back five decades, with our charge being led by survivors of gun violence who know all too well the devastation caused by this preventable epidemic.

Brady, then called the National Council to Control Handguns, was founded in 1974 by Dr. Mark Borinsky, who had survived being robbed and nearly murdered at gunpoint. Dr. Borinksy was soon joined by Nelson T. “Pete” Shields III, a former marketing executive who dedicated his career to the movement against gun violence after his 23-year-old son, Nick, was shot and killed in 1974. Shields was a member of the NRA, a gun owner, and a Republican who understood that preventing gun violence was not about politics or what side of the aisle you were on, but about championing sensible solutions to save lives. 

The movement against gun violence gained major national momentum in 1981 when a gunman tried to assassinate President Reagan. While the president survived without permanent injury, White House Press Secretary Jim “the Bear” Brady suffered a bullet to the head. He was left partially paralyzed, but he and his wife, Sarah Brady, were determined to spend the rest of their lives protecting others from gun violence.

Soon after the shooting, Sarah Brady, a respected political operative in her own right, began working with Shields. Like Shields, the Bradys were gun owners and long-time Republicans, who saw the urgent need to take action to prevent further gun violence rather than political sides.

Sarah was elected to the organization’s board in 1985. When Shields stepped down from his position as Chair in 1989, he handed the reins over to Sarah Brady. 

Jim sarah bradys impact lives on

Jim and Sarah Brady's Impact Lives On

Jim sarah bradys impact lives on

Jim and Sarah Brady spent decades at the forefront of the fight to end gun violence, dedicated to defeating what Jim called "the Evil Empire" — the NRA.

For years on end, Sarah and Jim navigated the halls of Congress, meeting with legislators across party lines to generate enough votes to pass the Brady Bill, a law they knew would save lives. Brady President Kris Brown was one of the many staffers on Capitol Hill working to pass the original version of the Brady Bill.


On November 30, 1993, after Sarah and Jim’s seven-year battle, President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill into law.

Brady Background Checks would now be required on all handgun purchases from federally licensed firearm dealers. Since its enactment in 1994, the Brady Background Check System has blocked nearly 5 million prohibited purchasers from obtaining a firearm. The signing of the Brady Bill was only the beginning. Sarah and Jim continued to advocate for common-sense gun laws at the state and federal levels throughout the rest of their lives, helping win the nation's first assault weapons ban and more.

In 1994, Sarah and Jim received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards. In 1996, she and Jim received the Margaret Chase Smith Award presented by the Secretaries of State.

In 1996, Jim received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton, the highest civilian award in the United States. On February 11, 2000, President Clinton officially named the White House Press Briefing Room “The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room” in Jim’s honor. A plaque honoring Jim for his service as White House Press Secretary now hangs in that room.

In December 2000, the Boards of Trustees for Handgun Control Inc. and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence voted to honor Jim and Sarah Brady’s hard work and commitment to gun violence prevention by renaming the two organizations the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That same year, the Brady Campaign and Center joined with the Million Mom March to expand their efforts to communities throughout the country. Jim and Sarah both continued their commitment to preventing gun violence for the remainder of their lives, with Sarah serving as the Chair of both organizations until 2015.

Jim Brady passed away on August 4, 2014, at the age of 73. His death was ruled a homicide, caused by the shooting 33 years earlier. Sarah passed away one year later, on April 3, 2015, at the age of 73.

Kris Brown President of Brady

Brady welcomed the leadership of Kris Brown.

Kris Brown President of Brady

Kris Brown made history by becoming the organization's first woman president. She has shaped the national conversation on gun violence as a public health crisis, launched the organization’s groundbreaking safe storage program End Family Fire, steered Brady's efforts to engage Black and Brown communities most impacted by gun homicide, and oversaw the formation of Team ENOUGH — Brady’s youth-led initiative founded after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, FL.

Today, led by Kris Brown, who saw Jim and Sarah’s bipartisan impact on Capitol Hill firsthand, we continue to uphold the Bradys' legacy by uniting people from coast to coast, progressives and conservatives of every race, ethnicity, and identity, to combat the epidemic of gun violence. In Congress, courts, and communities across the country, Brady can be counted on to lead the fight for a safer country for all of us. Brady has always been more than a name, it’s a passion for change. We are changing the laws, changing the industry, and changing the culture.

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