Gun-Control Group Changes Name, Keeps Agenda

By Seth Lewis | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - When one of the nation's largest anti-gun lobbyists dropped the "gun control" part of its name Thursday, some 2nd Amendment advocates labeled it a public-relations ploy.

Handgun Control Inc. changed its name to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to honor the "enormous contribution that Jim and Sarah Brady have made to the gun control movement for the last 20 years," said Amy Stilwell, a spokeswoman for the group.

Furthermore, Stilwell said, the modified moniker recognizes the 20th anniversary of the attempted assassination on former President Ronald Reagan in which Jim Brady was hurt.

"The timing seemed right," she said.

But critics contend the timing had more to do with softening its image, and that the Brady Campaign's move is the latest in a national trend to make the language of gun control more appealing.

"They've been unable to push their existing agenda under the current banner," said John Velleco, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America. "This is a public-relations move on their part to appear more mainstream. People are going to see very quickly how transparent that is, how they're not mainstream."

Despite the name and logo change, Brady Campaign officials say they won't alter their campaign to heighten background checks, pursue tighter licensing laws and enforce existing gun laws.

The group removed "handgun control" as "an acknowledgement that handguns aren't the only problem," Stilwell said. "Our agenda remains as strong as ever."

Indeed, gun-rights groups expect no less lobbying from the Brady Campaign: "An anti-gun disarmament extremist is an anti-gun disarmament extremist by any other name," Velleco said. "That's something they cannot hide."

The Brady Campaign officially unveiled the name and logo changes at a Thursday night gala where Washington luminaries such as former President Bill Clinton and Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) honored the Bradys.

While the Brady Campaign wouldn't call the event a fundraiser, gun-rights lobbyists acknowledge they struggle to keep up with the financial backing gun-control groups receive from such events.

"They get lots of money from high-dollar donors," claimed Velleco, who noted that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is one of Handgun Control's supporters.

"We don't get any money from gun manufacturers. Most of our donations come from $20 or $30 donations from our membership."