Damning With Faint Praise

By now, virtually everyone in the gun community knows that Paul Helmke is leaving as President of the Brady Campaign. While there is some discussion on whether he walked away on his own accord or was pushed out, the bottom line is that he will be gone effective July.

I found the release from the Brady Campaign announcing his departure and his accomplishments somewhat lacking in substance. Some of these “accomplishments” remind me of Good Penmanship Awards from grammar school. They are nice but not indicative of any substantial accomplishment unlike making the Honor Roll in the pre-grade inflation days.

Take, for example, the accomplishment listed as “leading the Starbuck ‘open carry’ campaign.” I’m sorry but Starbucks still allows open carry and told the Brady Campaign to pound sand over the issue. If that is an accomplishment, then what do they consider a failure?

Paul Helmke Departs Brady After Busy, Fruitful, Five-year Term As Brady President
Long-Time Public Servant Blazed Trails, Strengthened Movement

Jun 24, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a great deal of sadness and overwhelming gratitude, the Brady Campaign and Brady Center today announced that Paul Helmke will end his five-year-tenure as Brady president on July 10 and begin the next chapter in his life and his long career of public service.

“When the Brady Boards hired me as President in 2006, I committed to remain in the job for at least five years. July 10 will mark the end of five busy, active, challenging, exciting, and fruitful years – and will be my last day as President,” said Helmke in a memo to the organization’s staff.

Jim and Sarah Brady expressed deep gratitude to Helmke for his outstanding commitment to the organization and the movement.

“Jim and I thank Paul for his wonderful work over the past five years. He has poured his life and soul into both the Brady Campaign and Brady Center,” said Sarah Brady, Chair of the Brady organizations. “He is a man of the highest integrity who has worked tirelessly to keep Americans safer for so many years, long before his tenure with us. His accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but we are delighted that he has made our voice louder and our movement stronger. We both will miss him as a friend and a leader.”

“The Board is grateful to Paul for his many accomplishments over the last five years, and his dedicated and tireless service to Brady and the gun violence prevention movement,” said Board Chair William Harwood. “Paul helped blaze new trails for Brady and the movement. He helped us focus extraordinary national attention on the tragedy of American gun violence, and along the way laid a strong foundation from which we will excitedly continue to strengthen this organization and our movement.”

Helmke also announced that although he will leave as CEO on July 10, he will remain through the end of July to help with the transition to new leadership.

Among the well-liked and highly-respected former mayor’s many accomplishments with the Brady organizations are these:

  • responding to the decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald in a way that makes legislation implementing common sense restrictions on guns more likely in the future;
  • helping pass the NICS Improvement Act in 2007, which law has already helped spur the addition of another million records to the Brady background check system;
  • engaging a new generation of victim advocates, such as Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard, in the fight for sensible gun laws;
  • supporting the filming, release and distribution of two new documentaries on the gun issue — Living for 32 and Gunfight;
  • pursuing an aggressive media strategy, including national television and radio, as well as local, newspapers, magazines, and web outlets;
  • the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence initiative;
  • beginning relationships with professional athletes such as Plaxico Burress;
  • advancing Brady’s “assault clips” campaign and targeted district strategy;
  • enlisting 100+ sponsors for bills to close the gun show loophole and ban assault clips;
  • implementing successful defensive efforts in the states to stop “guns on campus” as well as helping pass strong pro-active legislation in places like California;
  • leading the Starbucks “open carry” campaign;
  • steering the organization through the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression;
  • supporting the writing and promotion of a new book on the gun issue, Lethal Logic by Dennis Henigan;
  • getting more attention from the White House, Administration, as well as many leaders on the Hill than in the past decade;
  • budgeting for new investment in donors that resulted in thousands of new donors and supporters.

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