A Secret Service agent watches over James Brady, former President Reagan's… (Ron Edmonds / Associated…)
TAMPA, Fla. -- As Ronald Reagan's presidency looms large over the GOP convention, a key figure from that era delivered a stern, but impassioned, gun control message for today's Republican Party of Mitt Romney.
Jim Brady, the former press secretary to Reagan, who was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on the president, urged delegates in Tampa to help Romney "not to be afraid" of gun control legislation.
After four mass shootings in the United States in as many weeks, "we can do better than this," said Brady, recalling the convention he attended 32 years ago that nominated Reagan.
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"You can help your nominee, Mitt Romney, by telling him not to be afraid to do what is right for this country, which we all love," Brady wrote in a letter to GOP delegates Wednesday, his 72st birthday. "You can tell him to join the national conversation that’s taking place on WeAreBetterThanThis.org, and in millions of homes across the nation, and present to the American people his solutions to prevent gun deaths and injuries."
The topic of gun control is about as far from the agendas of the Republican -- and Democratic -- parties this election season as it has ever been.
Neither party has shown much appetite for standing up to the powerful National Rifle Assn., and its army of active members, who stand ready to pummel candidates showing the slightest whiff of restraints on 2nd Amendment rights.
On the same day Brady's letter was sent, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia, Tim Kaine -- in one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation against George Allen -- appealed for funds to help counter campaign attacks he said were coming from the NRA.
Polls show public attitudes are shifting on gun rights issues, with even gun owners favoring background criminal checks on purchases, according to a survey from GOP pollster Frank Luntz this summer for Mayors Against Illegal Guns., the group co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Brady, for whom the White House briefing room was named in 2000, reminded Republican delegates in Tampa that it was Reagan who advocated for both the assault weapons ban as well as the Brady Bill, which tightened background checks on purchases in the aftermath of the 1981 attempt on the president's life.
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"Let me remind the Republican Party that President Reagan not only supported both pieces of legislation, but worked actively to assure their passage," wrote Brady, in the letter from his Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "And I will remind the Democratic National Convention next week that President Clinton, who had championed this legislation and signed it into law in 1993, was not afraid to do what was right for the country."
A mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 killed and scores injured was the first in series of gun-related incidents across the nation this summer.
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