Video: The attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

A little over two months after his inauguration, Ronald Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after addressing leaders of the AFL-CIO. John Hinckley Jr., hoping to attract the attention of the actress Jodie Foster, fired six shots, wounding four other men including Press Secretary James Brady, who was hit in the head; DC policeman Thomas Delahanty, who was shot in the neck; Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the abdomen; and with the last shot Reagan was wounded by a ricochet which went through his armpit into his lungs near his heart. The .22 caliber ammunition Hinckley used was designed to explode and fracture upon impact for maximum damage.

Ever the joker, Reagan joked before being operated upon that he hoped that all of the doctors were Republicans.

No one was killed, although James Brady was permanently disabled, and he and his wife went on to found the Brady Foundation to try to limit the availability of guns for those with mental illness (such as Hinckley).  Their advocacy was instrumental in obtaining the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1984, which mandated background checks of people attempting to buy firearms from gun shops.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and public outrage over this led to severe limitations on the use of the insanity defense. Hinckley has been confined to a mental institution since his conviction, although he is allowed to visit his parents’ home for ten days at a time.

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