Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (CNN) - Nearly 30 years after he was shot in the head during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, former White House Press Secretary Jim Brady knows what U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is going through.
"Been there. Know that," Jim Brady said. "Sounds like she's got a great support group that's right there with her and that means a lot," he said.
Brady and his wife, Sarah, are keeping a close eye on Giffords' progress, noting the congresswoman's remarkable recovery so far. Jim Brady also showed signs of rapid improvement in the days after he was wounded.
"We know for her it's going to be a long haul. But I know she's a fighter and she's going to be great," Sarah Brady said.
There are other parallels between Brady's shooting and the attack on Giffords. In the hours after the attempt on President Reagan's life, several news outlets mistakenly reported Brady had died. The same happened with Giffords as several media outlets, including CNN, reported she had been killed. Brady was 40 years old at the time of the shooting, the same age as Giffords.
Reagan's attempted assassin, John Hinkley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. By most accounts, alleged Tucson gunman Jared Lee Loughner has suffered from mental health issues.
The Bradys have spent decades lobbying Congress to pass tougher gun control legislation. Their biggest successes came in the 1990s with the passage of the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban. The Brady Bill originally called for a five-day waiting period before Americans could buy guns, a precursor to the FBI background checks conducted at gun shops today.
Noting that the Assault Weapons Ban once outlawed the extended magazine clips that were allegedly used in the Tucson shooting, the Bradys argue new gun laws are now needed.
"We just haven't had and we've got to have the political courage to take that step," Sarah Brady said.
With the influence of the National Rifle Association on Capitol Hill, many members of Congress in both parties are reluctant to pass new gun laws.
"I think there are some wimps up there," Sarah Brady said.
Don't count the Bradys among Americans who believe political rhetoric somehow played a role in the Saturday's shootings. But Sarah Brady says the tragedy is an opportunity for national healing.
"There has been a level of discourse that I think has gotten out of hand. It's time that we come and work together. I've never seen Capitol Hill quite so divided," she said.
The Bradys say Giffords faces a lifetime of healing and recovery. At 70 and now blind, Jim Brady routinely goes to physical therapy near the couple's home on the Delaware shore.
"Life will always be good again. It may be different. But that doesn't mean it's bad," she said.