The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is the 501(c)(3) education arm of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (commonly called “Brady Campaign”), which together are referred to as the Brady organizations.
The groups 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 Brady sustained crippling head injuries during the 1981 assassination attempt made against President Reagan.
A major initiative of the Brady Center is the Legal Action Project (LAP), which seeks to sue gun sellers or manufacturers for negligence based on violence caused with a firearms-related product they have sold. In 2014, LAP lawyers filed a lawsuit filed by the on behalf of the parents of a woman killed during a 2012 mass shooting against several online merchants who unknowingly sold accessories to the man who would later commit the murders. The case was dismissed because of a variety of errors the judge attributed to the Brady Center, such as filing the case based on political motivations rather than sound legal points. The severity of the infractions cited by the judge resulted in the parents being ordered to pay the legal bills of the firearm product merchants the Brady Center was suing on their behalf – a total that exceeded $200,000. The couple later claimed to have been forced into bankruptcy because of the magnitude of the judgment.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a 501(c)(3) public charity, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, 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 simply “Brady.”
Founded in 1974, the National Council to Control Handguns became one of the nation’s most prominent gun control advocacy organizations. The 501(c)(4) 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. James Brady passed away in 2014, and Sarah Brady died in 2015.
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.
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 internal 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.
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 Center 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|
The 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. During October of 2015 the LAP hosted its “25th Anniversary Dinner,” at which Alan Bennett, a current board member of both Brady organizations, and David Birenbaum (an attorney and former board member), were honored as the founders of the LAP.
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 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.
In his tabulation of the costs, the judge accused the Brady Center of playing politics and public relations with the law and his court: “It is apparent that this case was filed to pursue the political purposes of the Brady Center and, given the failure to present any cognizable legal claim, bringing these defendants into the Colorado court where the prosecution of James Holmes was proceeding appears to be more of an opportunity to propagandize the public and stigmatize the defendants than to obtain a court order which counsel should have known would be outside the authority of this court.”
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.
Other Advocacy Campaigns
Public Service Announcement Campaign
In August 2018, the Brady Center launched a public service advertising campaign, assisted by the Ad Council, to encourage secure storage of firearms, the use of trigger locks, and storage of weapons separate from ammunition. Brady Center spokespersons have denied that they intend for the spots to be political, controversial, or anti-firearm, comparing the campaign to broadcast media campaigns aimed at discouraging drunken driving.
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. Ms. Gardiner was the chief legal officer and worked on lawsuits for the Legal Action Project. Ms. Brown was also a staffer for former U.S. Congressman Jim Moran (D – Virginia), with firearms issues being one of her policy specialties.
Board of Directors
Kevin Quinn is chairman of the board of both organizations. He is the founder of Genki Advisory, an investment firm, and a former executive with Goldman Sachs. He lives in New Jersey.
Maria 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.