One year ago, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the oldest gun-control advocacy groups, began reinventing itself with a focus on public education. It hired a new president, a New York advertising executive with no background in politics, ordered up web videos featuring celebrities and eased out its vice president who literally wrote the book on American gun policy.
Then came Newtown.
The Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school horrified and transfixed the nation, undercutting the need for a public message campaign on gun violence. It also spurred, for the first time in more than a decade, a serious discussion about federal policy and legislation.
On the pro-gun side of the debate, the National Rifle Association, established in 1871, has spent years preparing for and warning of such a showdown with a singular message: No new gun restrictions. Their adversaries, meanwhile, are caught without a clear playbook as Brady is transitioning and newer groups are just beginning to take form.
“I worry, broadly, how are we going to get everyone to work together?” said Sarah Brady, whose husband, James Brady, the former Ronald Reagan press secretary shot during the 1981 assassination attempt on the president, is the group’s namesake. “We’ve got to. We can’t all be doing the same thing. We need to divvy up tasks, otherwise the whole thing could lose momentum.”