President Ronald Reagan had just finished delivering an address before the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction union on March 30, 1981, when John Hinckley Jr. opened fire, shooting the 40th president and three others.
That happened 40 years ago today.
Reagan, who was quickly rushed into his limousine and taken to a hospital, was famously in good humor at George Washington University Hospital when he was about to undergo treatment.
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“Honey, I forgot to duck,” Reagan told first lady Nancy Reagan before surgery. He also joked to his doctors, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.”
The president had suffered a collapsed lung as a result of the attack, but was in stable condition following surgery and resumed some of his official duties the day after the procedure.
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Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the side and D.C. Police Officer Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck. Both men recovered.
Reagan press secretary James Brady was shot in the eye and suffered brain damage. He ultimately died in 2014, and law enforcement officials ruled his death a homicide due to its connection to the 1981 shooting.
For decades, Brady’s name has been associated with gun control, due to the naming of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The law put in place a required waiting period for gun purchasers to receive their weapons, allowing vendors to conduct background checks.
Hinckley was acquitted of attempting to assassinate the president as a result of an insantiy defense. His attorneys pointed to his narcissistic personality disorder and referenced his obsession with the movie Taxi Driver and actress Jodie Foster as the inspiration for the attack.
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Hinckley was committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital due to mental illness, but was granted a conditional release in 2016.