The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (also called “Brady Campaign”) and its 501(c)(3) affiliate, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (together referred to as the Brady organizations), engage in political advocacy, education, lawsuits and activism aimed at expanding regulations and restrictions on the right of Americans to possess and use firearms. Created in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns, the organizations have since been named after former White House press secretary James Brady, and his wife Sarah, who both became active in the organizations after Mr. Brady sustained crippling head injuries during the 1981 assassination attempt made against President Reagan.
The organization lobbied heavily for a 1993 federal statute that requires prospective handgun purchasers to pass a federal background check before purchasing a pistol from a licensed firearms dealer. Since then the organizations have worked to add additional regulations and legal restrictions on the types of firearms and firearm accessories Americans are permitted to own. This includes supporting state laws and local ordinances that prohibit the possession of modern sporting rifles and opposing the expansion of the right to carry a firearm for personal protection.
Political spending and endorsements by the Brady Campaign have been overwhelmingly to the benefit of Democrats. The organization endorsed 36 candidates for U.S. House and Senate in advance of the 2018 Congressional election, all of them Democrats.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, and Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit, are two distinct legal entities with overlapping agendas and nearly identical staffs and boards. The organizations themselves and popular media accounts frequently shorten these names to “Brady Center” and “Brady Campaign,” or—to refer to both—the “Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence” or even simply “Brady.”
Founded as the National Council to Control Handguns in 1974, the group has become one of the nation’s most prominent gun control advocacy organizations. The advocacy arm was later renamed Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), and it created a related entity named the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.
Sarah Brady, wife of White House press secretary James Brady, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, joined the board of HCI in 1985. By the early 1990s, Sarah Brady was the chair of both organizations. In December 2000, the HCI board elected to rename both organizations in honor of the Bradys. Mr. Brady passed away in 2014, and Mrs. Brady died in 2015.
Former Ft. Wayne, Indiana, mayor Paul Helmke (R) became president of the Brady organizations in 2006, serving for five years. In early 2012, marketing and advertising executive Daniel Gross was named to replace Helmke.
On September 6, 2017, Kevin Quinn, chair of both organizations, announced that Brady staffers Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner had been promoted as the co-presidents to replace Gross. The statement did not quote Mr. Gross nor reveal a reason for the change in leadership.
Million Mom March
In early 2001, the Million Mom March, another gun control advocacy organization founded in 2000, and claiming chapters across the nation, affiliated as a subsidiary project within the newly-named Brady organizations.
Brady Law (1993)
Handgun Control Inc. lobbied heavily for the 1993 passage of the federal Brady Law, which requires a background check on a prospective buyer seeking to purchase a handgun from a licensed firearm dealer.
Strengthening the requirements of the background checks at the state and federal levels, and adding other types of firearms (such as rifles) to the background check requirement are still top policy goals pursued by the Brady organizations. Other policy objectives include blocking the expansion of right-to-carry laws; preventing the possession of modern sporting rifles (so-called “assault weapons”) and standard-capacity magazines; and instituting duty to retreat laws curtailing self-defense rights.
Brady Center Legal Action Project
The Brady Center’s Legal Action Project (LAP) litigates against firearms manufacturers and sellers and to increase federal and state firearms regulations.
The Brady Campaign’s 2016 financial statement shows $9,378,722 in “legal action” spending, implying the LAP may be more than half of the total spending for all Brady organizations and far and away the most expensive project they are involved in. Lawyers for a Safer America is a subsidiary project within the LAP, designed to recruit lawyers and firms willing to work on LAP cases and to raise funding for the LAP. The 2016 financial statement shows the Brady organizations received $8,305,809 in donated legal services.
Jonathan E. Lowy is the Brady Center’s vice president for the Legal Action project and the main attorney for their firearms litigation. Avery W. Gardiner, now the co-president of both Brady organizations, was the Brady chief legal officer prior to her promotion.
Aurora Lawsuit Controversy
During September 2014, the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project sued several online retailers whose ammunition and other firearm-related products (though not, it seems, actual firearms) were purchased by the gunman who in 2012 shot and killed a number of people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The LAP lawyers sued on behalf of the parents of a young woman murdered in the attack.
The case was dismissed because U.S. District Court Judge Richard S. Matsch ruled the Brady Center lawyers had failed to prove a case and had also asked for a verdict his court did not have the power to grant – essentially that it was a frivolous lawsuit. As a result, on June 17, 2015, Judge Matsch ordered the Brady clients to pay more than $200,000 in attorney fees and expenses to the online retailers they were suing.
The Brady Campaign website does not appear to offer an update regarding how and why the case went against them, nor whether or not the organization assisted the parents of the murdered woman in paying the six-figure legal fee imposed by the judge. One of the Brady clients, writing in the left-leaning publication Mother Jones, claimed the $200,000 imposed by the court had helped force her and her husband to file for bankruptcy.
The Brady Campaign is, like all 501(c) organizations, formally nonpartisan. In practice, its endorsements have been overwhelmingly and sometimes exclusively given to Democrats.
The Brady Campaign spent a total of $392,272 on the federal election cycles that took place from 2002 through 2016, with 87.6 percent of the partisan spending benefitting Democrats. There has been zero spending on behalf of Republicans since the 2008 cycle, and less than one percent of the total spending since 2002 has been for the benefit of Republicans. The spending pattern has been erratic, with the Brady Campaign spending $138,356 in 2002, then just $2,552 for 2016, with an uptick to at least $50,000 for the 2018 cycle.
2018 Midterm Election
For the 2018 midterm Congressional elections, the Brady Campaign endorsed general election candidates in 36 U.S. House and Senate races. All 36 were Democrats, and 18 of them were from just three very “blue” states that have some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on citizens possessing firearms: New York, New Jersey and California. Incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) received the Brady Campaign endorsement for re-election; he is the brother of Brady Center and Brady Campaign board member Maria Cuomo Cole. 
2016 Presidential Election
The Brady Campaign has carved out a very demanding position regarding its endorsements in U.S. Presidential contests. Early in the 2016 presidential election, the Brady Campaign endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and publicly rebuked her socialist primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), for Sanders’s former support of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law which protects firearm manufacturers and dealers who comply with federal law from lawsuits by organizations like the Brady Center if their products are later used in crime. Then-Brady Campaign president Doug Gross characterized Sanders’s support for PLCAA “truly evil.”
2008 Presidential Election
Then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) received the Brady Campaign endorsement for President in 2008, but in January 2010 the group gave President Obama a grade of “F” for failing to advance aggressive gun control policies during his first year in office.
End Family Fire Campaign
During August of 2018, the Brady Center launched a public service advertising campaign, assisted by the Ad Council, to raise awareness of what the Brady Center has called “family fire” – shootings in the home involving children who discover and then mishandle firearms. The “End Family Fire” campaign, scheduled to run at least one year, features online, TV and digital video dramatizations designed to encourage secure storage of firearms, the use of trigger locks, and storage of weapons separate from ammunition. Brady Center spokespersons have stated they do not intend for the spots to be political, controversial, or anti-firearm, and hope their suggestions for firearm safety can be supported by all sides in the debate over firearms ownership. They compare their videos to broadcast media campaigns aimed at discouraging drunken driving.
Finances and Funding
The 2016 consolidated financial statements released by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its affiliates show total revenues of $18,282,359, and expenses of $17,365,852. The largest single expenditure listed, at $9,378,722, was “legal action,” likely the work of the Legal Action Project’s lawsuits. Donated legal services comprise $8,305,809 of the revenue reported.
The total combined revenue as reported separately by the Brady Center and Brady Campaign (which leaves out the donated legal services and voter education fund) is a little more than $9 million. The Brady Center reported 2016 revenue of $6,113,520, against expenses of $4,329,018. The Brady Campaign reported 2016 revenue of $2,926,223, against expenses of $3,799,295. Between the two there was a combined surplus of $911,430.
The two organizations combined spent $319,204 for outside professional fundraising services in 2016, and reported a combined $2,299,572 spent for all fundraising activities.
Charitable foundations contributed $968,147 to the Brady organizations between 2002 and 2017 (a $60,509 average per year). Noteworthy foundation donors were as follows:
|Brady Campaign Donors|
|Tides Foundation (2003-2004) ||$54,000|
|Kenneth Cole Foundation (2016) ||$25,000|
|Norman Raab Foundation (2014-2016) ||$150,000|
|Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation (2005) ||$100,000|
|Frank S. and Julia M. Ladner Family Foundation (2008-2015) ||$81,000|
Avery Gardiner and Kris Brown
The co-presidents of both organizations are Avery Gardiner and Kris Brown. Both women are attorneys with experience in private sector fields, and both worked within the Brady organizations prior to their elevation as co-presidents. Gardiner was the chief legal officer and worked on lawsuits for the Legal Action Project. Brown was also a staffer for former U.S. Congressman Jim Moran (D-Virginia), with firearms issues being one of her policy specialties.
Kevin Quinn is chairman of the board of both Brady Campaign organizations. He is the founder of Genki Advisory, an investment firm, and is a former executive of Goldman Sachs. He lives in New Jersey.
Maria Cuomo Cole
Mario Cuomo Cole is a documentary filmmaker, the daughter of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D), the sister of current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), and the spouse of fashion designer Kenneth Cole.