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Sarah Brady, the wife of the late former White House press secretary James Brady and a leading gun control advocate, died Friday after a battle with pneumonia, her family said. She was 73.
Brady began campaigning for stricter gun control laws after her husband was shot by a would-be assassin aiming for then-President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
"Sarah courageously stepped up after Jim was shot to prevent others from enduring what our family has gone through, and her work has saved countless lives," her family said in a statement.
James Brady was shot in the head during the attack and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The gunman, John Hinckley Jr., was found not guilty by reason of insanity and he was committed to a mental hospital where he remains today. James Brady died in August at the age of 73.
Nancy Reagan said she was deeply saddened by Sarah Brady's passing, and called her a "dear friend."
"Just over 34 years ago, we shared an experience that bonded us for life, as we comforted each other in a tiny, windowless office at the George Washington University Hospital Emergency Room, while awaiting word about whether our husbands would survive the horrific gunshots that had brought them there," Nancy Reagan said in a statement.
"Sarah and Jim’s path from that day on was, of course, much more difficult than Ronnie’s and mine, but Sarah never complained. Over the years, I found her to be a woman of immense courage, strength and optimism," she said.
James and Sarah Brady became leading voices for gun control after the assassination attempt. In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act into law. The law requires background checks for gun buyers.
The law has stopped the sale of more than 2.4 million guns to criminals or other people barred from owning them, said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
"Together with her husband Jim 'Bear' Brady, Sarah was the heart and soul of this organization and the successful movement it has become today," Gross said. "In the history of our nation, there are few people, if any, who are directly responsible for saving as many lives as Sarah and Jim."
In 1985, Sarah Brady was elected to the board of Handgun Control, Inc., which later became the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. She became chair of the Center to Prevent Gun Handgun Violence in 1991. The two organizations were renamed for the Bradys in 2000. Sarah Brady remained chair of the organization for the rest of her life.
Sarah is survived by a son, James "Scott" Brady, Jr., stepdaughter Melissa "Missy" Brady Camins, and a brother, Bill.
"We are enormously proud of Sarah's remarkable accomplishments and the impact she had on so many people — whether as an elementary school teacher, advocate for a safer America, devoted mother, friend, wife and caregiver," the family said in a statement. "Sarah fought the good fight her whole life."
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