Paul Helmke stepping down as Brady Campaign chief
July 15, 2011
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Former three-term Fort Wayne, IN, Mayor Paul Helmke said on June 23 that he’ll step down July 10 as president of the Brady Campaign, and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, according to a report in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
That date marks the end of the five-year commitment Helmke made when hired as president by the Brady boards in 2006. He plans to remain with the organization through the end of July, although not as president, to help with the transition to new leadership.
Brady Vice President and general counsel Dennis Henigan will serve as acting president while the Brady boards search yet again for a new leader.
Helmke, a Republican, was Fort Wayne mayor from 1988 to 2000. He was president of the US Conference of Mayors in 1997 and 1998.
According to the newspaper, Helmke said he’s leaving the Brady Campaign on good terms after what he considers five years of positive work to promote its platforms as “moderate, reasonable approaches” to gun control.
However Helmke might phrase it, the organization he headed, which was more famously know as Handgun Control Inc. before adopting the Brady name as part of its perpetual “victim” centered imagery, never supported what anyone else considers reasonable. When the Students Committee for Carry on Campus was launched, Helmke was among those leaders who opposed carry on campus, by students or faculty, portraying the academic atmosphere as something akin to the movie “Animal House.”
Under his leadership or not, under all of its many names, the organization has never supported loosening any gun law as “reasonable” and found only complete prohibition of handguns as “moderate.”
Helmke and company filed amicus briefs opposing most pro-gun litigation in the courts, and have constantly supported or filed suits against gunowners and the gun industry. In fact, they not only supported suits against the entire gun industry, shopping for the most supportive judges they could find, they found the kind of outside legal help that traveled in lock step with them.
In supporting the “victims” doctrine, the Brady Campaign has always blamed the guns and never those who misuse guns to commit crimes.
More than 30 years ago, Handgun Control Inc. sought out and hired Nelson T. “Pete” Shields, a DuPont executive whose young son was a victim of the racist Zebra killers in California, to head up the organization. Shields followed the same script as successors, including, most recently, Helmke.
After the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan and the wounding of his press secretary James Brady, the organization hired Sarah Brady as a front person for the group, usually titled as chairman of the Board, a title she still holds.
As the strategists behind the anti-gun movement decided to “moderate” themselves in name only, they switched their official title to the “Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.” While Sarah and Jim Brady’s names and faces became the signature public image for the anti-gunners, a string of others served as president, or chief executive officers on a day-to-day basis.
Helmke was just the latest in a long line of anti-gun stooges, fronting for organizations like the Joyce Foundation. He was a registered Republican with a proven anti-gun record in office. He was supposed to counter the image that the anti-gunners supported only Democrats. However, during his time in office, the former Republican mayor endorsed the election of Barack Obama as president and promoted other Democrats for political office. When Obama didn’t deliver immediately on the anti-gun their anti-gun agenda, the Brady Campaign and Helmke gave him an “F-rated” report card.
Curiously, the National Rifle Association is usually labeled in much of the establishment media as being very pro-Republican, if not a GOP front. But the truth is, the NRA supports more Democrats for office, and share more of its PAC funds with them, than the “moderate” Brady Campaign does with Republicans.
The Journal Gazette story said Helmke hasn’t figured out whether his next step will be in politics or the private sector, but he said he’s weighing several offers. He also hasn’t decided whether to stay in Washington, DC, or return to Fort Wayne, where he has a home.
In a memo to staff this week, Helmke called his five years “busy, active, challenging, exciting and fruitful.”
The recent trials of the national economy did not spare the Brady Campaign, which Helmke said has undergone staff cuts in recent years, and gotten used to doing more with less.
However, the state of the economy is not the main reason for belt-tightening at the Brady Campaign. Their main source of income has come from non-profit foundations, trusts and a handful of billionaires like George Soros. No matter what the organization is called, National Committee to Ban Handguns, Handgun Control, Inc, or Brady Campaign, they have seldom had a large or wide grassroots footprint, or related small-donor base.
Even their attempt to promote the “Million” Mom March was largely a failure. When launched, the Million Mom March was supported to force immediate congressional action by virtue of its overwhelming size. But it never gained the real public support it craved, as was thwarted in part by the simultaneous emergence of the Second Amendment Sisters.
Shortly after its big show on the Capitol Mall in Washington, the Million Moms name and organization was nursed in California. When that period could not produce the grassroots numbers or funding it needed, the Brady Campaign rescued the name and combined it with the Brady name whenever necessary.
But by whatever name it has been known, the anti-gun flagship has largely foundered everywhere except in the establishment media.
According to the Journal Gazette, the Brady Campaign provided a lengthy list of what it considers Helmke’s achievements for the organization. Among them: Improving the Brady background check system; engaging a new generation of victim advocates, such as Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard; and pursuing an aggressive media strategy.
Helmke also worked to engage political allies in the more-receptive Obama White House and non-political ones, such as NFL player Plaxico Burress, who had gone to jail for illegally possessing a handgun when he accidentally shot himself in the thigh.
Burress then joined Helmke at the National Urban League to promote the anti-gun agenda. Helmke was an anti-gunner before he became the Brady Campaign president. While mayor, he participated in events in Washington with Jim Brady, calling for gun locks.
He was part of a group of 70 mayors and police chiefs who asked President Clinton for tougher restrictions on gunowners, including a national registry of new gun purchases, higher taxes on ammunition and firearms, and more liability for so-called illegal sales by gun dealers.
Helmke will soon be replaced by another prominent anti-gunner and they will continue their campaign for civilian disarmament at the state and federal legislative levels, in the courts, and especially in the media. But one can only wonder at this point, whether the anti-gun movement us even relevant any more.
The public seems to have turned cool to the anti-gun agenda. Licensed concealed carry is about to begin in one of the last two holdout statesWisconsin, with the vast majority being shall-issue states.
Event the number of “constitutional carry” states has increased. Even the Congress has been cool to the anti-gunners’ demands for action.
And, significantly, the Supreme Court has twice supported an individual right to keep and bear arms, a right Helmke and the anti-gunner claim never existed.
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