The Brady Bill is Related to Gun Control, and the Wagner Act is Related to Labor Rights: A Brief Overview

In this article, we will explore two important pieces of legislation in the United States that have shaped the fields of gun control and labor rights: the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the National Labor Relations Act. We will summarize their main provisions, historical contexts, and impacts on society.

What is the Brady Bill?

The Brady Bill, officially known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, is an act of Congress that was enacted in 1993. It was named after James Brady, the White House press secretary who was shot and severely wounded by John Hinckley Jr. during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

The main purpose of the Brady Bill was to prevent people with criminal records or mental illnesses from purchasing firearms by requiring federal background checks and a five-day waiting period for handgun buyers. The act also established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which became operational in 1998 and allowed instant verification of prospective buyers through a computerized database. 

The Brady Bill was supported by President Bill Clinton and many Democrats, but opposed by Republicans and gun rights advocates, who argued that it violated the Second Amendment and the freedom of contract of individuals. The act was challenged in court several times, but ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997. 

According to the Brady Campaign, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control, the Brady Bill has prevented more than 3 million prohibited firearm sales since its enactment.However, critics of the act have pointed out its limitations, such as the lack of background checks for private sales, the incomplete records in the NICS database, and the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004. 

What is the Wagner Act?

The Wagner Act, officially known as the National Labor Relations Act, is an act of Congress that was enacted in 1935. It was named after Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York, who sponsored the bill as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program. 

The main purpose of the Wagner Act was to protect the rights of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. The act also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency that oversees labor relations and resolves labor disputes. 

The Wagner Act was a response to the widespread labor unrest and economic inequality that characterized the Great Depression era. The act aimed to promote industrial democracy and social justice by empowering workers to form unions and negotiate fair wages, hours, and working conditions. The act also prohibited employers from interfering with union activities, discriminating against union members, or refusing to bargain in good faith. 

The Wagner Act was hailed by labor leaders and progressives as a landmark achievement for workers’ rights, but denounced by conservatives and business groups as a socialist intrusion on free enterprise. The act faced several legal challenges, but was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1937. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership peaked at 35% of the nonagricultural workforce in 1954, largely due to the influence of the Wagner Act.  However, union membership has declined steadily since then, reaching 10.8% in 2020, partly due to changes in the economy, globalization, and legislation that weakened or restricted union activities, such as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and the Right-to-Work laws in many states. 


The Brady Bill and the Wagner Act are two examples of how federal legislation can shape social issues such as gun control and labor rights. Both acts have had significant impacts on their respective fields, but also faced controversies and challenges over time. As society evolves, so do the debates over these acts and their relevance for today’s problems.

Doms Desk

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