Sarah Brady
Sarah Brady
A Good Fight
ISBN: 1586481053
A Good Fight
On March 30, 1981, Sarah Brady's husband James was critically injured during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Some years later, she presided over passage of a handgun control law known as the Brady Bill. Now, in A Good Fight, Brady tells the compelling human story behind these news events in a voice laced with honesty, humor, and a complete absence of self-pity.

It is the story of her involvement in Republican politics; of her courtship and marriage; of the Brady's brief idyll as "country mice" among the Reagan glitterati, and of the tragic day that changed their lives forever. Sarah talks candidly about the many obstacles and difficulties her family encountered learning to live together after the shooting, and about her challenges as a mother. She describes how she became a gun control activist--which didn't happen until years after her husband's shooting. She recalls her decade of work with Handgun Control Inc. which culminated in the passage of the Brady Bill and led to her organization's merger with the Million Mom March. The book also tells the story of Sarah's recent battle with lung cancer, and demonstrates how she's fighting back against this latest adversity with the same spirit she brought to all her other challenges.

Much more than a polemic about the importance of gun control, A Good Fight is a wonderfully readable personal story about an ordinary woman coping with extraordinary events and becoming extraordinary in the process.

—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
A Good Fight
Program Air Date: May 5, 2002

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Sarah Brady, can you remember when you decided to write a book?
SARAH BRADY, AUTHOR, "A GOOD FIGHT": It was just a little bit over a year ago, right around Christmas time.
LAMB: Why did you do it?
BRADY: Actually, I swore I'd never do a book unless it was a great mystery novel. And some members of my board suggested it to me, and I thought about it, and I had been reflecting on -- for the last nine months -- I had been diagnosed with cancer, and all of a sudden had a chance to reflect on my life. And for the first time, I guess I thought, Well, maybe I do have a few things I can impart to people. I've been through a few unusual fights in my life. Maybe I'll tell this story.
LAMB: What was it like?
BRADY: Actually it was a wonderful exercise in going back through your life. Life gets so hectic day in and day out, going from one thing to another. The last -- especially the last 20, 21 years, 22 years, have just gone so fast, I haven't been able to catch up with them. And going back and reflecting over all those years has been a great experience.
LAMB: When were you first diagnosed with cancer?
BRADY: It was just over two years ago, March 7 two years ago.
LAMB: What kind?
BRADY: Small -- non-small-cell lung cancer.
LAMB: That was caused by what? Because you do write about this.
BRADY: Yes, it was caused by years of smoking.
LAMB: So what have the last two years been like, and what kind of shape are you in right now?
BRADY: I think I'm in marvelous shape. I feel great. They've been -- parts of them have been hard, a lot's been exhilarating, and a lot has been very inspirational to me. It's kind of a broad range of emotions you feel when you face a potentially terminal illness.

I've been very fortunate in that I -- my -- I was not able to be operated on, because it had spread to some lymph nodes. But I started in on chemotherapy and had quite a few months of chemo, two different types, and radiation treatment. I had a very easy time compared to many, many people. I didn't suffer from extreme nausea. The worst that I felt was maybe some tiredness.

So I had a very easy time through the chemo and the radiation therapy. I was very upbeat. The cancer center that I went to was wonderful and upbeat. And I had studied some before we began and knew that I was on the right course with the right drugs, and definitely the right people there, who cared.

And then during that entire time I was just convinced I'm just -- I'm going to beat this, it's just -- it's going to go away. And when I finished that treatment, I had four good months, and then I had a CAT scan, and it reoccurred. So I went back on chemo again. All this time, I do lose my hair. I did go for a couple years with no hair.

And then went on a trial drug, a very famous one that is probably soon to be OK'd by the FDA, called Orissa (ph), and was on that for seven months until I had another reoccurrence this fall. So I had more radiation. But since December, my scans have been clean, have been good, no change.

And I'm feeling top-notch, so I'm on top of the world right now, and it -- you learn to enjoy every minute of life. And in a way, it's strange, it gives you an appreciation of every day that you don't have unless you're faced with something like that, your own mortality.
LAMB: You tell us in the book that your dad died at about your age...
BRADY: Exactly 60.
LAMB: ... of cancer from smoking.
BRADY: He had lung cancer. A different -- the different -- a totally different type of lung cancer. But yes.
LAMB: Now, have you stopped smoking?
BRADY: I have, I'm in the midst of trying right now. I'm on a program that has kind of got a -- is two-pronged. One is taking a drug to help you with your anxiety, and then I'm starting -- I've tried so many times over the years. In fact, this will be -- this is kind of the fourth attempt. This one is an oral -- where you breathe in nicotine, and you do a certain number -- in fact, it's like smoking a cigarette, only you're not smoking.

And then you wean yourself off that with the nicotine addiction, and along with this drug, which takes away the anxiety, this time I'm hopeful it'll be -- it'll work. But it's a difficult thing. Addiction is difficult.
LAMB: Now, I normally couldn't ask this question of a lady. But because you write about it in the book, is that your real hair?
BRADY: This is my real hair. It's very strange-looking right now. It all came in curly and very, very dark. And so it's beginning to straighten out a little, and it's gone through a lot of stages in the last four or five months, sort of like a Chia Pet.

And I've had it cut out, some of the curls out twice, then I think it'll end up getting back to normal.
LAMB: How do you compare your own personal experience with cancer with what you went through after your husband was shot?
BRADY: Well, when Jim was shot, it was because it was a traumatic experience, it happened like that. Your system has a chance -- your system kind of goes into -- you're able to cope with things very well. Your adrenaline starts running. You don't sit down and face the future right away, you're just living day to day at first, praying and hoping that they're going to make it through and to live. And you don't think about the future and what's going to happen.

That was harder for me in the long run. That was -- it's now been 21 years, and it's a never-ending process. We were very fortunate Jim lived. He had a lot of medical problems all along the way. There have been a lot of ups and downs and hurts and disappointments, and it was life-altering for all of us and for our son, for Jim, for me.

But I think that helped prepare me for other things such as learning that I had cancer.
LAMB: Where do you live today?
BRADY: We live -- we have moved to Delaware, to the shore, enjoying it thoroughly. We make a lot of trips back here. We're both still active working with the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center, trying to keep up with all the things we always did -- have done.
LAMB: Now, what's been the impact on Jim Brady from your -- about your illness?
BRADY: Well, I think he -- at first he was devastated. But Jim and I are so much alike, it's very strange. We are, I guess you just grow that way after many years of marriage. I think he thinks I'm going to beat it too. I just have the sneaking suspicion that I'm going to beat it. I've never had a symptom, and I feel marvelous.
LAMB: And how's he doing?
BRADY: He's doing great.
LAMB: What's he do on a day-to-day basis?
BRADY: He goes to -- he still does therapy a couple days a week. He gets a lot of rest. In the spring and summer and the fall he fishes. We're -- we have a boat dock right next -- a little dock right next to our house, and he loves to fish. He loves to watch the birds and the ducks on the lake next to our house. We go out a lot, we have a good social life there, stay active.

He has a train simulator, and he loves to study -- to get on there and pretend like he's riding a -- driving the train.
LAMB: There's a picture here in the book of your son, Scott, and another lady. Who's that, up top?
BRADY: Oh, that's April Parker. That's a friend of Scott's who was with us on Thanksgiving last -- a year ago last Thanksgiving.
LAMB: How old is Scott, and where does he live, and what does he do?
BRADY: He's 23 now, and one of the greatest blessings, he's going to be with us all this winter. He's bought property and is building a log cabin south of -- just south of Charlottesville in Walton's Mountain, where he wants to -- once he's in that permanently, he wants to go back, go to school, community college first, and then hopefully he'd like to get into university.

But while the house is -- in the winter, there are times when the house can't be worked on, so he's been with us a lot this winter, and it's been a real blessing. It's made us all very, very close, and we do pretty well with the child moving back into the home.
LAMB: Couple things that jumped out in the book, one is a fear of driving. And I want you to tell us why. And a fear of flying. What about driving? Still afraid of it?
BRADY: No, not so much any more. But it happened not too soon after Jim was hurt. Scott was a baby -- a little boy, he was only 2 when Jim was hurt. And it -- the -- I've never psychoanalyzed on it, but I guess it must have been where I put all my frustrations, all my worries, went into anything can happen, and look what happened to Jim, I don't want anything else to happen.

It was the one -- especially when Scott was in the car, I got nervous about driving across the 14th Street Bridge. So I would take Memorial Bridge because it was slower, even though it would -- might be way out of the way. And I didn't want to get out on fast highways. And...
LAMB: There's a story you tell about you -- in order to, what, not go across 14th Street Bridge, you go all the way around?
BRADY: Oh, yes.
LAMB: You know, 25 minutes out of your way?
BRADY: Oh, yes, I used to -- we used to love to go down and get vegetables down at RFK, fresh vegetables, but would just -- it would have taken 15 minutes from where we lived just across the bridge, and -- 14th Street Bridge, and right over there, but not me, I was too afraid of the bridge.

But I never did give up driving, I just took unusual routes places.
LAMB: When did the fear of flying begin? And do you still have that?
BRADY: It's better. When I first started flying again after Jim was hurt, in fact, it was the first flight I ever took, I was going down to Norfolk to give a speech, a Women for Reagan speech for his reelection. And I was nervous on that flight, and then it just seemed to get better -- worse and worse.

But then the driving became OK. I transferred it from cars to airplanes. And I think I'd like to transfer it on to camel riding.
LAMB: This is the picture that you open the book up with. Who is it, and when was it taken?
BRADY: That's me when I was 3, up in Buffalo with my Lambie Pie, my little lamb.
LAMB: What were your parents like?
BRADY: Oh, they were wonderful. I think I had the neatest, most wonderful home life. My dad was an FBI agent, or he became an FBI agent right after I was born. My mother had been a school teacher, but in those days you couldn't teach once you had a family -- once you were married. So she was a homemaker.

And then I have -- when I was 3, my brother was born, and we -- I remember Buffalo really well, world -- during the war, I remember when the war was over up there, we lived on a little park, and it was in downtown Buffalo, but it was a beautiful little park with residential area, except for our fourth-floor walk-up. And I remember just the spontaneous party, that group of people that went out into this little park when -- was it -- I can't remember which came first, VE Day, I guess, in April, if I remember correctly.

But everybody just ran out, and I wasn't sure what it was all about, but I knew that it was wonderful news, and a lot of flag-waving and kissing and partying.
LAMB: Where else did you as a family live?
BRADY: Prior to that, we had lived in Newark, New Jersey, and in Norfolk, Virginia. But after Buffalo, after the war, then we were transferred to Washington, to the bureau headquarters.
LAMB: Where did you eventually go to college?
BRADY: College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Lived in Virginia from the time I was 7 on.
LAMB: And your husband, Jim Brady, calls William and Mary what?
BRADY: Bill and Mary. Says it's not a 4-year accredited college.
LAMB: What got you to Washington? And what year did you come here?
BRADY: Oh, we came in '47, my family did, and that's where I grew up. My dad was transferred in the bureau back to headquarters in Washington.
LAMB: When did you first get interested in politics?
BRADY: I think I always had been. My parents were both very interested in it, although not politicians themselves, the news was always on, discussions of politics. They were very pol -- had strong convictions, so we just kind of grew up that way.
LAMB: When did you...
BRADY: And then in the '60s, I really got a -- really interested in issues, and, I mean, that was the time everybody became involved. I mean, it was -- you had to have strong feelings one way or the other on so many different issues.
LAMB: Your first political job.
BRADY: Well, my very first one, actually, was even before I got real involved, was in 1960, when I worked up on the Hill for a Republican member of Congress. It was sort of -- I'm always ashamed to admit that my freshman year in college, I didn't make my grades, so my -- I stayed home a year, and I took a job up on the Hill.
LAMB: Who is it -- who was the congressman?
BRADY: His name was Walter Norblad. He was from the first district of -- in Oregon. And it was a wonderful -- I mean, I enjoyed the job thoroughly. I was the lowest person on the totem pole. I was the delivery person, got to know every part of the House and the Senate and the Capitol, and got to see wonderful things.

One of my greatest memories was watching the day that Richard Nixon, who was then vice president of the United States, and as such was president of the Senate, counted the electoral votes giving John Kennedy, his opponent, the victory. And that was very dramatic.

And then I saw John Kennedy give his first State of the Union message, and that was a wonderful thing to be able to see.
LAMB: Where did you meet Jim Brady?
BRADY: Met Jim at a Republican National Committee cocktail party. That was much later, when I was actually working for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.
LAMB: There's a picture over here on the right at the bottom of you and Jim Brady and your brother. Who else is in there?
BRADY: My brother and my mom and me, and Missy, Jim's daughter, Missy. He -- Jim had been married in college for several years. By the time I met him, he was divorced, and Missy -- well, in that picture, it looks like she's about 9 or 10, but when I first met her, she was just a little tyke on a bike.
LAMB: What year did you get married?
BRADY: Seventy-three, 1973. Jim had been working in Chicago representing several Republican members who were running for Congress, and my office at the Congressional Campaign Committee, gave services and money to those candidates. So he wanted to get to know me, that's all, because I was a good in to my boss, Ed Terrell (ph), a wonderful man, who made the decisions on who got the money.

So for a long time, I thought Jim just wanted my influence.
LAMB: You worked for Congressman Mike McDivot of -- McKevitt...
BRADY: McKevitt.
LAMB: Not McDivot, McKevitt, of Colorado, for one term. And then you went to work for a fellow from New Jersey.
BRADY: Joe Meresidi (ph).
LAMB: And you tell this story in here about Joe Meresidi (ph). What it -- what's the story?
BRADY: I could probably write a whole book about Joe Meresidi (ph). Joe Meresidi (ph) had been in the state senate, he was the majority whip in the state senate, and had been in charge -- in New Jersey -- been in charge of redistricting. And he redistricted -- he subsidied a district just for himself, and at age 62, I believe he was, came as a freshman member of Congress.

And he was the most friendly, grandfatherly -- of course, I was young, so he seemed grandfatherly. He was really just without years older than I am now. But to me, I thought he was very grandfatherly, white hair and kind of...

And our whole staff from McKevitt's office had come to work for him. And so we -- the staff was young, and we loved him dearly because he was so kind to us and so sweet, and he had a lovely wife and seven children.

But after a while, we started realizing that -- and I would not tell this except it's all public record, and during those years I didn't tell it. We started realizing that sometimes he didn't go home to New Jersey, and they would call looking for him, and that he had in a little outside friend who he bought a home for up on Capitol Hill and kept it secret from his wife. And then deeded it over to her.

And it was very hard for us to deal with for a long time. We just couldn't imagine that this wonderful grandfatherly man was doing it. But he would come up every day, if he talking to you about an issue, he'd be right in the middle of something, and he'd say, "Here, want a vitamin E? It's good for you." I should have realized then that that's how he got his prowess.

But then it went even further. The next year he put her on our payroll under an assumed name. It was a previous name. She had been married before. And she did actually do some work, and she wasn't paid highly, but she did do some work. He decided she had to work. So she did some addressing of envelopes and things of that type.

But it became just, oh, a terrible thing, we just felt disloyal to his family, and we didn't want to open up and speak out in public about it, and put in a terrible position.

And finally the press heard that some things were going on, and they came -- they called, and Joe Meresidi (ph) -- what a character he was -- he said -- I said -- I talked to him on the phone, he was over on the Hill. And he -- or over in the cloakroom. And I said, "The Trenton 'Times' has called and wants to know about Anne LeClair (ph)." He said, "OK. Close the doors, close the office, turn out the lights, and don't answer the phones for the rest of the day."

And so I went around and told everybody, and our whole staff was sitting there, phones ringing. And that's what happened every time we got a press call, we'd just have to turn off -- we learned to dial each other, so that if people called in, they'd get a busy signal.

And he never did show back up at -- this was maybe August before the election, it was right in the middle of Watergate. He was on the Watergate -- the Judiciary Committee. And he hid out in the cloakroom, and then would go to the hearings and go back to the cloakroom, and never would -- I tried to get him to talk to the press and explain, but, you know, if you tell them nothing's illegal, there's nothing illegal, it's just indiscretion. He said, "No, if I talk to the press, I either have to lie or tell the truth, and I don't want to do either."

So he would never talk to the press.
LAMB: What happened to him?
BRADY: He -- it finally broke, "Beautiful No-Show Adorns Meresidi (ph) Payroll." He went -- he got defeated, he was defeated.
LAMB: Is he alive today?
BRADY: No, I think he's passed away now. He lived for a quite a while. It crushed his family.
LAMB: Do you remember this picture?
BRADY: Oh, I sure do. That's...
LAMB: Where was it?
BRADY: That's in -- at the White House the day Jim was sworn in as White House press secretary. That's Ronald -- President Reagan, my mom and my aunt, and May, and Jim received his commission.
LAMB: That would have been what date, you remember?
BRADY: It would have been January...
LAMB: After the 20th?
BRADY: Yes.
LAMB: Right after the 20th?
BRADY: About two or three days later.
LAMB: So you literally move two months ahead to March 30th, 1981. Where were you when you first heard that Jim had been shot?
BRADY: I was at home in our rec room in Arlington. I'd just picked Scott up from a little church play school. And he was playing, and I had turned on the soap opera that I -- my mother and I always had watched for many years on and off. And I heard an announcement that the -- there had been shots fired at the president.

And I didn't think too much of it, because I thought, Well, Jim wouldn't be there. And they did say, "Apparently the president was unhurt."

And several minutes later I got a call from a friend who asked if she could come get Scott. And I said, "Well, what for?" And she started crying, and she said, "Oh, Jim's been hit."

So I hung up and called the White House to verify that he had been hit. And then things just went so quickly. I left within 15 minutes to go over to the hospital. During that trip, I'm told I was told that he was shot in the head, but for some reason, until I got to the hospital, I kept thinking he'd been winged. I knew he was alive during the trip over.

And it was only when I got there that I heard how devastating it was from his neurosurgeon.
LAMB: Do you remember how you handled it all, I mean, in your own head, at the time? I mean, how did you get through what -- was -- what, November, he was in the hospital till November?
BRADY: In -- till November, yes. That first five hours during the operation were difficult ones, and those were ones you just keep busy, call -- I mean, I was calling, getting our family all back in town, notifying people, making arrangements with the White House to get people picked up, a lot of pacing and wondering.

And then Jim was just amazing. They never even dreamed he would wake up right away after the operation. The doctor, when he -- when the five-hour operation was over -- and you have to remember that he was pronounced dead by the major networks, and his obituary read, when it wasn't true. Of course, luckily I was unaware of that. So here is this man who's supposed to be dead, nobody thought was going to live, and he came out of this surgery awake and recognizing me when I saw him, and trying to speak, uttering "Coon," that's my nickname, "Raccoon."

So the doctors were just elated. And I became elated then.
LAMB: Why does he call you Raccoon?
BRADY: Dark circles, little hands, big belly, love to eat, you know, that kind -- just look like a raccoon.
LAMB: When did he start calling you that?
BRADY: Right after he met me.
LAMB: Did it endear you to him?
BRADY: Well, it takes a little bit of time to realize that raccoons are something flattering to be. But now I look in a -- and I can see the resemblance.
LAMB: What do you call him?
BRADY: A bear, Pooh, Pooh.
LAMB: Where did that come from?
BRADY: He'd had that nickname before. And how -- Jim always assigned animal names to everybody. I mean, there was the Rabbit and the Owl and the Cat.
LAMB: Does Scott, your son, have a name, an animal name?
BRADY: Jim will just call him the Cub, the Cub.
LAMB: Now, this man has played a big role in your life.
BRADY: Art Cobrain (ph), Dr. Cobrain, a magnificent technician as a surgeon, a wonderful surgeon, but a wonderful friend, and somebody who agonized and spent so much time with every decision, because Jim had so many, many setbacks that first year. He had blood clots, he had life-threatening blood clots. He had air that went into his -- back into his ventricles and had to go back in, the doctor had to go back in and do another craniotomy. That was life-threatening.

He had a grand malseizure.
LAMB: Which is what? What's a grand malseizure?
BRADY: And head injuries very often, almost with most head-injured people, severe, you get seizures afterwards. So you -- they put you on an antiseizure medication right away. The first -- one of the first problems Jim had was within two weeks of being on it, he developed a -- this high, high fever, and they thought maybe it was an infection in the brain, but it turned out to be a Dilantin fever. He was allergic to the drug of choice for seizures. So as a result, he was on other drugs.

And in August of that first year, he just out of the blue started seizing, and it was so severe that they had to snow him under, totally unconscious, put him back on a respirator and monitor then through an electroencephalogram. And the seizing went on for about two days, and then stopped.

But during that process, he shook loose something in the brain that allowed spinal fluid to begin dripping from his brain down through his nose, meaning there's an open communication between the brain and the outside world, which is very dangerous because of infection.
LAMB: You tell us in the book that you have made a lot of speeches over the years, when you got involved in the Brady Bill and all that. Do you have any sense of how many times you've talked to an audience?
BRADY: Oh, it has to be in the -- I would imagine 500 -- between 500 and 1,000, at least.
LAMB: How many times have you had to tell this story we're talking about right now?
BRADY: Usually I touch, I touch on Jim, I touch on how things happened, never in total detail, because I like to make my speeches normally fairly light and airy. Jim and I love to do our speeches together -- we call them dog and -- he calls them dog and pony shows -- where I'll talk more seriously, and then he pipes in and, you know, I'm the straight person, and he has wonderful one-liners he'll add in.

So I don't normally go through everything totally . There's so many -- there's so much -- you know, when you have a life that goes on -- I mean, interesting or wild things that go on for 21 years, you have to kind of pick and choose what parts you bring out.
LAMB: What I was leading to is that I know you often have an answer -- question and answer period. What's the questions that are always asked of you, by every audience?
BRADY: OK, you -- if it's gun -- and most of -- many of mine have been all on the issue of gun safety, that type of thing, that usually the very first question is, Why do you want to take my guns away?
LAMB: What about your husband's episode and all that? What do they ask you about that?
BRADY: They usually ask, How do we feel about John Hinckley?
LAMB: And you have a chapter in here about, "I Hate John Hinckley." What's that story?
BRADY: And that story doesn't reflect how we truly feel about John Hinckley. What it really reflects on is our son. He was about 3, it was in the second year -- or the first year after Jim was home. And coming home from the hospital is probably one of the hardest things after a head injury. And I think any family who's been through a head injury -- has a family member knows that once the patient is home and they're totally under your care, the reality of what life's going to be like the rest of your life sets in.

And although it's joyous and wonderful to get them home, life then, all of a sudden the trauma part's over, the adrenaline isn't there any more, and the drudgery sets in. And at the time, I was, you know, taking care of Jim, and Scott was 3, and I was -- you know, I had tons of laundry all the time, and medicines to be giving, and all kinds of things going on, and I was exhausted all the time.

And one night Scott and I -- I was reading to Scott before bed. He wasn't paying a lot of attention. And I snapped at him, and I was kind of irritable. And he yelled out, "I hate John Hinckley! I hate John Hinckley!"

I said, "Well, honey" -- because we had tried not to impart any of those kind of feelings -- "why? I know it's a terrible thing he did, but we don't hate anybody." And he said, "I hate John Hinckley because if he hadn't shot Daddy, you wouldn't be so tired, and then you wouldn't fuss at me."

And I just started crying. I thought, What a wonderful observation, and how wonderful he was able to get that out. He didn't hate the man, John Hinckley, he hated, like we all did, what had happened to Jim.
LAMB: What was the reaction from the Reagan family after all this? And here's a picture of you taken when?
BRADY: Oh, several years, probably five years after Jim was shot, maybe a little bit longer, eight -- toward the end of the Reagan administration.

I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful both Reagans were to us and our family. Nancy was absolutely amazing, right from the very beginning, she'd -- she -- her father was a neurosurgeon, and she'd go up and stand by Jim's bed and watch him. She'd seen him before. I didn't see him before he went into surgery. She had an opportunity to. She'd come up and stand by his bed. She kept up with us. Whenever we'd see her, she'd just be the warmest, "Oh, there's Jim, there's Sarah."

They included us in just so many things, toward the end, even, in their private residence, to parties up there when they -- sort of toward the very end, I think they decided to open their -- the private to a few more friends. And just took marvelous care of us, little things. The president called every year on Jim's birthday.

In fact, one of our favorite ones was when we had gone down to Camp Hoover, Jim and I and some friends, and this isn't even in the book, I have so many things that aren't in the book, but I love this story.

We'd gone to Camp Hoover, which is 100 miles outside of Washington, and Hoover built it because he wanted a fishing place. And his rules were, it had to be within 100 miles, had to be high enough so there were no mosquitoes. And so they found this place out off of Skyline Drive and built this fishing camp for Hoover.

And it's -- some presidents have used it very much like Camp David, but not in recent years. There's no telephone there. It's a marvelous big old house built many years ago with wicker furniture, and it's the middle of the woods, and you -- it's a half hour on a dirt road down the mountain to get to it. And there's a park ranger station at the top.

And we were down there with a lot of friends. It was Jim's birthday, so we had signed up to go down there. You'd sign up and then pay to go, you know. And all of a sudden one afternoon we had just finished -- started cocktail hour, and heard all this commotion, and looked, and here came down the side of a mountain an ambulance, a great big, like, what they call today SUVs but they -- some kind of big panel thing.

And another, another car, and it was the park rangers coming down to say, President Reagan has called and wants to talk to Mr. Brady, so we're here to take him to the top of the mountain.

And I said to Jim, "Which of these vehicles would be best?" And Jim right away said, "I think I'll ride in the ambulance so I can lay down."

So he was there with his rum and tonic riding up the side of the mountain in an ambulance, which he really didn't need, and I rode in with him. And we got to the top of the mountain, and then they re-placed the call, but -- and he and President Reagan talked. And President Reagan did that every single year until the Alzheimer's set in. And now Nancy takes care of that.
LAMB: Still.
BRADY: Well, she -- yes, she sends cards or a letter.
LAMB: How have you -- how did you all make it through these 20-some years financially?
BRADY: We've done fine. I went back to work toward the end of the '80s, so I worked all those -- I've been working all these years. Jim has, I mean, a government pension or workmen's compensation, just the same as any other government employee, which is tax free. We'll never be millionaires, but then again we have a very steady income. It's sort of -- you're sort of inflation-proof and recession-proof when you're on a fixed income.
LAMB: Does the government do enough for people that have been wounded in the line of fire working for the government? I mean, we've gone through this whole World Trade Center thing, where millions and millions of dollars have been provided to the families. Have they done enough for you?
BRADY: Oh, absolutely. Both Jim and I think -- are proud people, I think they've been very good to us. We -- I mean, we do get what everybody else -- actually Jim does get a tad bit more. Senator Bill Roth was -- put through, who was Jim's old boss, wonderful, good friend of ours, normally workmen's -- you get -- if you have to retire on workmen's compensation you get two-thirds of your salary at the time of retirement. And he put through a bill for Jim giving him three-quarters, which is a little bit more, and has helped.
LAMB: Do you ever get a call from somebody in the Republican Party saying, We want to do everything we can to make it financially comfortable for you?
BRADY: No, I haven't had anything like that in a long time. There was a foundation, the Brady Foundation, which was really organized -- I think the brains behind it all was Jim Lynn (ph), former secretary of HUD, and then of OMD, who Jim had worked for. And he got involved in that, Mrs. Reagan, Mike Deaver, Jack Valenti, Lou Wasserman, a group of people. And they very quickly raised quite a bit of money. And it went into what's called a foundation that will help assist anybody who has been hurt in an assassination attempt, because unlike people who are always in the line or fire, or their jobs -- there is...
LAMB: Like a military person.
BRADY: Yes, it's nothing special had been set up. And the purpose of it is pretty much that if there are any special needs, like Jim has -- normally needs to go first class on an airplane. Well, our family would pay the coach, and the -- it's kind of meant to pay expenses above and beyond that you might incur.
LAMB: You tell a story in here, and I think it was in the '90s, where you and Jim were in a hotel room, and he got up to move and fell into the closet. And then all heck broke loose.
BRADY: It was an awful experience.
LAMB: What was this …
BRADY: Another one of those setbacks. It was back in the mid-'90s. It's been doing beautifully. We were up there to get an award.
LAMB: Where were you?
BRADY: New York, in a hotel, going to get up the next morning. We'd just been to dinner. And Jim, when he walks, always edges along the side of a wall, just as -- on his right side, just to feel a little security. And there was one of those folding-in kind of closets. And he hit it, and lost his balance and went straight down on his face, and it knocked out all his teeth.

And because he's on a blood thinner, Coumadin, he bruised and bled immediately. And his face, he looked like he'd -- well, I thought he was dead, I was just panicky. I called 911. And when they saw him, I think they thought he was too. There was blood everywhere.

And we got him to the emergency room, and they X-rayed and they put him through everything, CAT scans, X-rays. And he didn't hurt himself seriously at all, other than the teeth. It just knocked out lots and lots of teeth.
LAMB: But then you had to go through...
BRADY: Then what was really horrible about that, this led to the next thing that kind of happened. He had to have -- we decided rather than getting a whole plate that he would have implants, and later on that fall, he went to the dentist's office, and they actually had an operating suite there, and an anesthesiologist, and went -- I went with him, and I had my tuna fish sandwich and was reading a book. And thinking he's in for just sort of a normal dental procedure.

And they came out and said, "Mr. Brady's gone into cardiac arrest, we're taking -- we called 911." And he went into cardiac arrest, and it was so bad that it took nine or 11 paddles to revive him. And when we got to the emergency room, they checked him out. He was still -- it was unconscious all day.

But the heart had not suffered any damage, and it was -- it had not been a heart attack. It was a reaction, not an allergic reaction, but an overreaction to the medication. And when the anesthesiologist would try to compensate, a brain-injured person doesn't always react correctly. So Jim -- it would throw Jim's system either too high or too low. And it eventually put him into cardiac arrest.

So he was in that -- in the hospital for two weeks with that, and of course that was potentially very life-threatening situations. We had to call Scott in, and it was very difficult.
LAMB: You had to call Scott into town because you didn't think he was going to live.
BRADY: Right.
LAMB: Any of that -- does he have any of that kind of a problem today? Seizures and...
BRADY: Knock on wood, no. He...
LAMB: How old is Jim Brady today?
BRADY: Sixty-one. He is sixty-one. He did this week, actually, but I think it's an old -- do -- his podiatrist, who cuts his toenails, thought he had a blood clot, and they tested, and thought there was one there. We think it may be an older one, I'll -- in fact, I think probably that's what it is.
LAMB: In addition to Jim Brady and all the problems he's had for the last 20 years, and your cancer, you tell the story about Scott and his education. How many different schools did Scott have to go to?
BRADY: Oh, my goodness. About six, I think. Scott is just the most wonderful child, right from the beginning, was. Very active, and he has attention deficit. And some -- a few learning disabilities. Extremely brilliant kid, which makes it even harder, because he always -- he was so smart, he knows his own -- that he can do things, and yet it sometimes is hard to reach the goal. His -- so there's the frustration level is very, very high.

And in those days, it was very difficult. That's been a long time ago, and things have changed a lot, in that there were not -- the public schools were not equipped at all to handle kids with learn -- with attention deficit. They had special education classrooms, but those were for slow learners. Private schools were not at the time and -- equipped. And of course there were lots of kids like this.

But, you know, I spent year after year after year trying to find the right place. It's -- he'd do fine for a while, but he wasn't in the old of everybody else. He had his own way of doing things. He thinks just kind of the opposite. We all -- most of us learn by building on one step at a time. He looks at the whole picture and then likes to break it down. He just kind of does things just the opposite.

But what I learned from this, and what's now very prevalent, is people -- oh, there's so much more written. But there are educational specialists who deal with helping find the right school for the right kid. And we eventually did, and it was a wonderful experience for him. It was a little school outside of Charlottesville in Keswick, Virginia.

In fact, Scott now is building a house south of Charlottesville, he loved that area so much.
LAMB: He's how old?
BRADY: Twenty-three.
LAMB: Did he get a college degree?
BRADY: No, but I'm hoping he'll -- and he's planning to go back. And he knew, Scott knew he was not ready when he graduated from high school to -- he -- he wasn't ready to go to college. He wasn't mature enough. And, boy, I can relate to that, because I didn't have -- maybe I had a little bit of attention deficit, and I think Jim probably did too. We always say the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.

We're all very fast-paced, impatient people. But Scott knew himself well enough to know he wasn't ready. I didn't when I went to college, and I didn't make my grades, I didn't put -- and I wasted my family's good money one whole year. I learned my lesson and went back and did fine.

Now Scott's ready.
LAMB: The Brady Bill passed what year?
BRADY: It passed in 1993. The president signed it into law.
LAMB: Which president?
BRADY: President Clinton. And then it became -- it went into effect in '94.
LAMB: How many years did you work for handgun control?
BRADY: Well, I started as a volunteer in 1985, went on the payroll in '89, and I'm still continuing to -- I've slowed down, but I still continue. It's now called the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and our sister organization -- the sister organization, the educational part, is the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.
LAMB: After all this experience, do you still call yourself a Republican?
BRADY: I call myself an independent, I think. I vote on issues, not always just the gun issue, I'm not a one-issue person. I -- issues are very important to me.
LAMB: Where is this picture?
BRADY: That picture was taken in the Senate swamp when we won the Senate. That's George Mitchell, Senator Biden -- Senator Dowell, it looks like, Senator Biden, Senator Metzenbaum, and my husband. It was great celebration.
LAMB: In the book, though, you tell us about some people you don't like too much. You call Senator Phil Gramm arrogant. Why?
BRADY: Oh, I thought he was very arrogant. He almost had the attitude from the moment we walked in, Oh, it's very understandable that you, Sarah Brady, would want to do something about guns, because, you poor thing, you've been through this horrible time. But we -- those of us who know better know that this just an emotional response, and you're just misguided.
LAMB: What would the Brady Bill do?
BRADY: The Brady Bill stopped people from purchasing guns from dealers if they were a fugitive. It required background checks, a waiting period and background checks, to make sure you weren't a fugitive, a felon, adjudicated mentally ill, before purchasing a gun, and that you were of age, and that you were not prohibited from purchasing a gun.
LAMB: You say in trying to get this passed that Dick Cheney wasn't very helpful to you, wouldn't return your phone calls.
BRADY: No. In fact, even before that, Dick Cheney was -- and understandably from Wyoming, that's a tough state. But the plastic gun bill came up several years before the Brady Bill, and that banned plastic guns …-- actually stipulated that there had to be enough metal in a firearm so that it would set off a magnetometer, so nothing totally plastic.

And, I mean, it was -- that's kind of a no-brainer. In fact, only four people in the House of Representatives voted against it, and Dick Cheney was one, which I think is very ironic, in that, you know, today here we are, thank God, with -- it's much more difficult to smuggle guns through or firearms through magnetometers because there's that requirement.
LAMB: George Herbert Walker Bush, President George Bush 41, didn't support you.
BRADY: No. And who I had thought and hoped and was...
LAMB: Only president alive that didn't support you, I mean, ex-president.
BRADY: Only president alive. Ford, Nixon, Reagan...
LAMB: Carter, Clinton.
BRADY: ... Carter, Clinton.
LAMB: George Bush, the president now, as governor signed in a law or -- Tell that story.
BRADY: He in Texas supported a concealed weapon bill and signed it into law, allowing people to carry concealed weapons, literally practically everywhere, which means when you send your kids to the movies or to a sporting event, anybody could be packing a concealed weapon.

It had -- even Texas, which is really -- I mean, I -- we think of as really being gun country, and there are an awful lot of wonderful brave people up in Texas, and 60-some -- 63 percent of them were against carrying concealed weapons.
LAMB: What's the story about when you called the NRA?
BRADY: That's...
LAMB: First time?
BRADY: First time. We had just been in Centralia, Jim and...
LAMB: Centralia, Illinois.
BRADY: My husband's home town. Scott and me. And while we were out there, Scott was a little boy about 5. We went to go swimming with some friends, and they had the pickup truck from her business, and her -- this gentleman who worked for her was driving. And Scott hopped in and I hopped in to the pickup truck, and Scott picked up off the seat what we both thought was a toy gun, and he sort of started in to play with it.

And I said, "Scott." And I took it from him. I said, "You don't even point a toy gun at anyone." And then I realized it was not a toy gun, it was a fully loaded little .22, very much like the one that had shot Jim.

And so, I mean, I was just absolutely shocked that anybody would leave his loaded gun where a kid could get ahold of it.

So when we back -- went back to Washington, I happened to hear within the next night or two -- it was in August -- that the NRA was pushing for a bill that would totally do away with the '64 Gun Control Act.

And the piece of legislation was called McClure-Volkmer. I was …-- I was doing dishes, it was late, 7:00 at night. And I picked up the phone and called the NRA, and probably got a security or cleaning person. I said, "My name's Sarah Brady, you don't know who in the world I am, but I am going to work to do away with you all. This is just obscene."

And the next day I called Charlie Orrison (ph) at Handgun Control and said, "Can I help?" And then that was the beginning.
LAMB: You met Charlton Heston once? Where?
BRADY: At the convention -- at a convention for Ronald Reagan, the second convention.
LAMB: Eighty-four?
BRADY: In '84, in one of the little holding rooms. He was going to be doing the Pledge of Allegiance, or -- And we were there just because the -- of making the comfortable place to sit before we went up to our seats.
LAMB: Your reaction to him?
BRADY: Well, I just thought he was rather funny and peculiar, and that he talked -- he didn't sit and talk like a normal person, he sort of talked like he was doing Shakespeare. And, you know, you think of -- he's from Minnesota or Wisconsin or some rural area. I knew he hadn't grown up reciting things in such dramatic form. I just thought, What a weird, unusual performance. It's like he was performing even though he was in a holding room, a greenroom-type situation.
LAMB: In all your work on the Brady Bill, did you ever see him again?
BRADY: No, we ran into him out in California. Nancy Reagan had -- she had the Reagan -- Nancy Reagan Foundation, and she gave awards. And she gave one to our -- at that time it was the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. And we went out for that. And she had a tennis tournament, and Charlton Heston was there. And Jim tells the story even better than I do. He walked toward us and he saw Jim, and he raised his head and walked away.

And only one time, when he was kind of forced into saying -- he looked down and said, "Hello, Mr. Brady," and walked off. And there was never any kind of friendliness.
LAMB: The picture on the cover of the book is what year?
BRADY: Early -- probably '82 -- I mean, '92.
LAMB: We're out of time.

It's called "A Good Fight." Sarah Brady is the author.

Thank you very much for joining us.
BRADY: Thank you.


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