Friday, March 30, 2007

March 30:


On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest
outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by a deranged drifter named John
Hinckley Jr.

The president had just finished addressing a labor meeting at the
Washington Hilton Hotel and was walking with his entourage to his
limousine when Hinckley, standing among a group of reporters, fired
six shots at the president, hitting Reagan and three of his
attendants. White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the
head and critically wounded, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy was
shot in the side, and District of Columbia policeman Thomas Delahaney
was shot in the neck. After firing the shots, Hinckley was overpowered
and pinned against a wall, and President Reagan, apparently unaware
that he'd been shot, was shoved into his limousine by a Secret Service
agent and rushed to the hospital.

The president was shot in the left lung, and the .22 caliber bullet
just missed his heart. In an impressive feat for a 70-year-old man
with a collapsed lung, he walked into George Washington University
Hospital under his own power. As he was treated and prepared for
surgery, he was in good spirits and quipped to his wife, Nancy,
''Honey, I forgot to duck,'' and to his surgeons, "Please tell me
you're Republicans." Reagan's surgery lasted two hours, and he was
listed in stable and good condition afterward.

The next day, the president resumed some of his executive duties and
signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. On April 11, he
returned to the White House. Reagan's popularity soared after the
assassination attempt, and at the end of April he was given a hero's
welcome by Congress. In August, this same Congress passed his
controversial economic program, with several Democrats breaking ranks
to back Reagan's plan. By this time, Reagan claimed to be fully
recovered from the assassination attempt. In private, however, he
would continue to feel the effects of the nearly fatal gunshot wound
for years.

Of the victims of the assassination attempt, Secret Service agent
Timothy McCarthy and D.C. policeman Thomas Delahaney eventually
recovered. James Brady, who nearly died after being shot in the eye,
suffered permanent brain damage. He later became an advocate of gun
control, and in 1993 Congress passed the "Brady Bill," which
established a five-day waiting period and background checks for
prospective gun buyers. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into

After being arrested on March 30, 1981, 25-year-old John Hinckley was
booked on federal charges of attempting to assassinate the president.
He had previously been arrested in Tennessee on weapons charges. In
June 1982, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the
trial, Hinckley's defense attorneys argued that their client was ill
with narcissistic personality disorder, citing medical evidence, and
had a pathological obsession with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which
the main character attempts to assassinate a fictional senator. His
lawyers claimed that Hinckley saw the movie more than a dozen times,
was obsessed with the lead actress, Jodie Foster, and had attempted to
reenact the events of the film in his own life. Thus the movie, not
Hinckley, they argued, was the actual planning force behind the events
that occurred on March 30, 1981.

The verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" aroused widespread
public criticism, and many were shocked that a would-be presidential
assassin could avoid been held accountable for his crime. However,
because of his obvious threat to society, he was placed in St.
Elizabeth's Hospital, a mental institution. In the late 1990s,
Hinckley's attorney began arguing that his mental illness was in
remission and thus had a right to return to a normal life. Beginning
in August 1999, he was allowed supervised day trips off the hospital
grounds and later was allowed to visit his parents once a week
unsupervised. The Secret Service voluntarily monitors him during these
outings. If his mental illness remains in remission, he may one day be

1814 : Allies capture Paris

1867 : Seward's Folly

1870 : 15th Amendment adopted

No comments: