US & Canada

Shot Reagan spokesman James Brady dies at 73

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Media captionA news crew captured the moment Brady, Reagan and two law enforcement officers were shot

James Brady, the former White House press secretary shot in the head in a 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life, has died at 73.

His family said Brady, who used a wheelchair after the shooting, died after an undisclosed illness.

Brady, who served in three Republican administrations, became an advocate for stricter gun control.

He lobbied for a law signed in 1993 that bore his name and required background checks for handgun sales.

In 2000, Democratic President Bill Clinton renamed the White House press briefing room in his honour.

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Image caption Brady was the most seriously wounded in the attempt on Reagan's life

President Barack Obama described Brady as a "legend" at the White House and praised his warmth and professionalism and "the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him".

"Since 1993, the law that bears Jim's name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals," he said. "An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn't be, thanks to Jim."

Brady, a lifelong Republican, served in the Nixon and Ford administrations and as a Senate aide before joining Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign.

On 30 March 1981, John Hinckley Jr opened fire on the president's party outside a Washington hotel, striking four people, including Brady and Reagan.

Brady was the most seriously wounded. Mr Reagan was shot in one lung. Two law enforcement officers suffered lesser wounds.

Photos and video of the incident show a wounded Brady sprawled on the ground as Secret Service agents rushed Reagan into his vehicle and others wrestled Hinckley to the ground.

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Image caption Brady's wife Sara, and then later Brady, began advocating for stricter gun control laws
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption James Brady visited the press briefing room that bears his name in 2011

The former press secretary suffered brain damage, partial paralysis, short-term memory impairment and slurred speech.

Hinckley was tried and found not guilty due to insanity. Since the trial he has been committed to a Washington DC psychiatric hospital, but has been allowed to spend limited time at his mother's home.

The so-called Brady Bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, years after the former press secretary began lobbying for stricter gun control rules.

"Every once in a while you need to wake up and smell the propane," Brady said at the bill signing. "I needed to be hit in the head before I started hitting the bricks."

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