As President Obama said this morning, America has lost a great leader.
In addition to his many other causes, Senator Edward Kennedy also understood the pain of gun violence, a tragedy that, sadly, he could share with hundreds of thousands of his fellow Americans.
He lost one brother, President John F. Kennedy, to an assassin's gunfire in November 1963. Then he lost a second brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, to the gunfire of yet another armed assassin in June of 1968.
What few recall, however, is that Edward Kennedy was also a potential target of the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 -- a shooting that wounded Reagan, a Secret Service officer, a Washington, DC police officer, and President Reagan's Press Secretary, Jim Brady.
About a month before the assassination attempt in March, Reagan's would-be killer visited Senator Kennedy's Capitol Hill Office for the second time. "With his gun in his pocket he waited for him, but he never saw Kennedy," reads the chilling account in Jim Brady's biography.
Having been confronted with the horrific effects of gun violence in his own life, Senator Kennedy became a champion for gun violence prevention in his political career. He was one of the first senators Sarah Brady visited on Capitol Hill as she launched the fight to pass the Brady Bill.
"At first, I was absolutely awestruck," Sarah recalled in 2002. "But even though he seems bigger than life, he is incredibly humble. Through every fight we waged over the years, Senator Kennedy was always working behind the scenes, lobbying his colleagues on our behalf... yet he never wanted any credit for his efforts."
The Brady Campaign, and all survivors of gun violence and the families who support them, will miss Senator Kennedy's giant presence on the national stage, his good humor, and his tireless advocacy to prevent another family from having to endure the excruciating pain of gun violence that he had to endure.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Kennedy's wife Vicki today, and the entire Kennedy family.