Passing the Brady bill in November 1993 was no fluke. It was the determined and relentless work of Sarah Brady and the entire Brady organization, employing the right legislative strategy and, most importantly, the sustained engagement of the American public who made their voices heard. It took seven floor votes over six years to pass the bill.
This tremendous victory showed what can be done when passionate advocates and everyday Americans join together in a common goal. Sarah Brady and former Brady staff recently sat down with our president, Dan Gross, in front of 200 gun violence prevention leaders, to share lessons on how they won the fight on the Brady bill, and how that fight can be won again on expanding Brady background checks.
There are many lessons to be learned from the original Brady bill fight. First, is to understand that we must stay the course. While we don’t want it to take six years to expand Brady background checks, we must remain committed to the fight until we finish the job. Second, we must raise our voices in key House districts and Senate seats. We need to engage in a sustained campaign with a drumbeat that resonates across the country, one that moves Congress to pass legislation expanding background checks to all gun sales.
Third, we need to expose the toxic relationship between the corporate gun lobby and the politicians who do their bidding. Senators like Heidi Heitkamp, Kelley Ayotte and Jeff Flake took money from the corporate gun lobby, then (surprise!) voted against expanding background checks, just five months after the Sandy Hook tragedy, even though a vast majority of their constituents supported the policy.
The Brady Campaign, its chapters, and allies will continue exposing the toxic influence of the corporate gun lobby just as we did this spring when the gun industry executives came to DC to buy more votes in Congress.
It’s not enough to wish that Congress will do the right thing. We need to apply pressure. We must make our voices heard, over and over until they do the right thing. Every phone call, email, district office visit, tweet and letter-to-the-editor makes a difference. That is how we will see politicians do the right thing and listen to their constituents, not the corporate gun lobby.
These are the lessons learned from the Brady bill fight over 20 years ago and they still apply today.