The Assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan happened on Monday, March 30, 1981. 69 days after becoming President, Ronald Reagan was leaving after a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C..Shots were fired by John Hinckley, Jr. as he left to enter the presidential limo. The assassination attempt started concern about gun control.
Hinckley was armed with a .22 revolver with exploding bullets and was only ten feet away from Reagan when he began shooting. Fortunately, he was a poor shot and most of the bullets did not explode as they were supposed to. Hinckley’s first shot hit press secretary James Brady and other shots wounded a police officer and a Secret Service agent. The final shot hit Reagan’s limo and then ricocheted into the President’s chest.
Hinckley’s path toward the assassination attempt began in 1976 when he saw the movie Taxi Driver. Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle stalks a Presidential candidate in the hopes that he will somehow impress and rescue a young prostitute played by Jodie Foster.
Hinckley, who spent seven years in college without earning a degree or making a friend, added Foster to his list of obsessions, which also included Nazis, the Beatles and assassins.
In May 1980, Hinckley wrote to Foster while she attended Yale University, traveled there and talked to her on the phone at least once.
Soon after, he began following President Jimmy Carter. In October, he was arrested at airport near a Carter campaign stop for carrying guns. However, the Secret Service was not notified. Hinckley simply went to a pawnshop in Dallas and bought more guns.
For the next several months, Hinckley’s plans changed daily. He pondered kidnapping Foster, considered killing Senator Edward Kennedy and began stalking newly elected President Reagan. Finally, he wrote a letter to Foster explaining that his attempt on Reagan’s life was for her. He kept abreast of the president’s schedule by reading the newspaper.
After Reagan was shot and nearly killed, there was a great deal of confusion at the upper levels of government. In the most notable incident, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told the press that “I am in control here in the White House, pending return of the vice-president,” under the mistaken belief that the chain of command placed him in charge.
Bush was out of Washington and he thought that as Secretary of State he was to succeed, but in reality, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill was to succeed Reagan and Bush to be in charge.
Haig was angry about his mistake as was O’Neill. This feud left Haig to resign after about a year.
Nobody was killed in the attack. Press Secretary James Brady was left paralyzed and permanently disabled. Brady died in August 2014. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He is in a psychiatric facility.
Reagan was the first serving U.S. President to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. The members of his staff were anxious for the president to appear to be recovering quickly, and the morning after his operation he saw visitors and signed a piece of legislation.
Reagan left the hospital on the 13th day. He was able to travel outside of Washington 49 days later.
Hinckley was confined at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.After Hinckley was admitted, tests found that he was an “unpredictably dangerous” man who might harm himself or any third party.
In 1999, Hinckley was permitted to leave the hospital for supervised visits with his parents; he was granted longer unsupervised releases in 2000.These privileges were revoked when he was found to have smuggled materials about Foster into the hospital. Hinckley was allowed supervised visits with his parents again during 2004 and 2005. Court hearings were held in September 2005 on whether he could have expanded privileges to leave the hospital.
On December 30, 2005, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley would be allowed visits, supervised by his parents, to their home in Williamsburg, Virginia. The judge ruled that Hinckley could have up to three visits of three nights and then four visits of four nights, each depending on the successful completion of the last.
On July 27, 2016, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley would be allowed to be released from St. Elizabeth’s on August 5,as he was no longer considered a threat to himself or others. The conditions of his release are that he has no contact with the Reagan family, the Brady family, or Jodie Foster. He will live with his 90-year-old mother and be restricted to a 50-mile zone around her home in Williamsburg, Virginia. Hinckley was released from institutional psychiatric care on September 10, 2016, and will live full-time at his mother’s home.As part of his release, he is excluded from speaking to the press, has to work three days a week, can drive no more than 30 miles from his mother’s home or 50 miles if attended, and must see a psychiatrist twice a month.
He now volunteers at a church, works as a bookseller on Amazon under an anonymous handle, and even those in his mother’s neighborhood where residents previously voiced concerns about him being set free say they never see him in public.
There are still many who object to his release however, believing he should spend the rest of his life removed from the public after shooting President Ronald Reagan and three others on March 30, 1981 outside the Hilton in Washington DC
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