In my column this week, I describe former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords' new life as a gun-control advocate. There also was a Giffords in a previous generation, though only 20 of the 535 current members of Congress were serving then.

He was Jim Brady, the talented press secretary for the newly elected President Ronald Reagan. On March 31, 1981, a gunman shot Reagan outside a Washington hotel and injured several others, including Brady.

Brady almost died, had multiple brain operations, was permanently disabled and has been wheelchair-ridden since.

He never lost his sense of humor; last week, he reminded my wife of the time in 1979 when he was working for the Republican presidential candidate John Connally, and was ordered to get me fired for writing a negative story. He said we were lucky he did such a poor job.

He also never lost his acumen or commitment. He and his wife, Sarah, launched a campaign to curb handguns that ultimately resulted in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993. The measure created waiting periods and checks for purchases of handguns, though court decisions and some loopholes weakened its impact. The Bradys have continued their gun-control efforts.

In 1996, Jim Brady was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "His courage and determination were stronger than an assassin's bullet," President Bill Clinton said.

The White House press room is the James S. Brady Briefing Room. After Gabby Giffords was shot, Brady, now 72, began wearing a bracelet in her honor.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. E-mail him at ahunt1@bloomberg.net or follow him on Twitter.)

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