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Remembering Michael Beard, a Pioneer of Gun Violence Prevention

Michael Beard was a trailblazer, leading the way toward impactful gun violence prevention legislation. 


It is with deep sorrow that we share the passing of Michael Beard, a true luminary in the gun violence prevention community. After a prolonged battle, Beard succumbed to the effects of Parkinson's disease. He leaves behind an indelible legacy as an unwavering advocate for meaningful gun violence prevention legislation.

Beard was more than a leader. He was a pioneer in the gun violence prevention movement. In 1974 Mike founded what eventually became known as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, at a time when there were few if any peer organizations. Beard also founded the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence in 1978. The Educational Fund later played a pivotal role in the formation of the current Center for Gun Violence Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Beard’s impact extended beyond his leadership role. He was a member of our Center's advisory board and was a mentor to our co-director Josh Horwitz for many years.

"Mike brought me into this movement, and I owe him a great debt of gratitude not only for giving me my first chance but for teaching me that if you believe in something, stand up for it. Don’t let the snickering of others who think they know better, change your course,” said Horwitz.

His commitment to the cause was unyielding. A man of profound influence, Beard served as the director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence for over 30 years before passing the torch to Horwitz. Throughout his tenure, Beard tirelessly championed meaningful gun violence prevention legislation, inspiring generations of advocates to follow in his footsteps.  He was pivotal in passing the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 and the Brady Bill, which created the National Instant Background system.  Mike’s most important role, however, was to always push for comprehensive firearm regulation and to appreciate, but not settle for, incremental steps.

Before founding the Coalition and the Educational Fund, Beard was the Executive Director of the Committee for Congressional Reform, Self-Determination for D.C. and the World Federalist Youth - USA. He worked on the staffs of Representative Walter E. Fauntroy (D-DC), Representative Walter Moeller (D-OH) and Senator John F. Kennedy (D-MA).   

Reflecting on Beard on a personal level, Horwitz related that "he was smart, funny and ahead of his time.  He loved acting, opera and movies and would finish the New York Times crossword puzzle every day, in ink."

Beyond his advocacy work, Beard led a rich and diverse life. An alumnus of American University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1965, Beard remained deeply grateful for the mentors who shaped his career. At AU, he found not only educational enlightenment but also his life partner, Melinda. Their marriage endured for 54 years until her passing in 2017.

Beard’s interests spanned beyond advocacy. An accomplished actor, he belonged to the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. He appeared on shows such as Homicide: Life on the Street and America’s Most Wanted.

Michael Beard's impact on the gun violence prevention community and American society at large will be remembered and celebrated, ensuring that his vision for a safer and more just world lives on in the hearts of those he inspired. As we mourn the loss of a dedicated advocate, charismatic leader, and compassionate soul, we will honor Beard's legacy by continuing the fight for a world free from gun violence. His work will inspire the research and advocacy that our Center prides itself on every day.