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31 Years Ago, John Hinckley Shot President Ronald Reagan

President Reagan

31 years ago today, John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, just 69 days into Reagan’s presidency. The 25-year-old would-be assassin had been stalking actress Jodie Foster, and shot the president in a bizarre attempt to impress the academy-award-nominated-teen.

On March 30, 1981, at approximately 1:30 pm local time, Hinckley shot a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver six times at Reagan as he left the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., after addressing an AFL-CIO conference.

Hinckley wounded press secretary James Brady, police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Hinckley did not hit Reagan directly, but seriously wounded him when a bullet ricocheted off the side of the presidential limousine and hit him in the chest. Hinckley did not attempt to flee and was arrested at the scene. All of the shooting victims survived, although Brady, who was hit in the right side of the head, endured a long recuperation period and remains paralyzed on the left side of his body.

John Hinckley, Jr.

Hinckley became obsessed with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which a disturbed protagonist, played by Robert De Niro, plots to assassinate a presidential candidate. Hinckley developed an infatuation with actress Jodie Foster, who played a child prostitute in the film. When Foster entered Yale University, Hinckley moved to New Haven, Connecticut, for a short time to stalk her. He enrolled in a Yale writing class, and began slipping poems and messages under her door and repeatedly phoning her.

Eventually Hinckley settled on a scheme to impress Foster by assassinating the president, with the theory that as a historical figure he would be her equal.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He remains in a mental hospital, but is allowed limited visits home to his parents.

Reagan was the first president hit by bullets since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald. For a fictional account of the JFK assassination, see blockbuster novel, “DESTINATION DEALEY: Countdown to the Kennedy Conspiracy.”

Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver

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One Response to “31 Years Ago, John Hinckley Shot President Ronald Reagan”

  1. Ate says:

    Remember, this was in 1963. While this was during the hehigt of the Cold War, terrorism was not a global threat until the 1970s. The president’s security in its current state was imposed by the Secret Service *after* the assassination of JFK and the attempt on Reagan in 1981. A bullet resistant bubble-top roof attachment was available, but Kennedy always opted against any kind of barrier between him and his constituents. He was the last president to ride in an open-top car.

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