The Attempted Assassination of Ronald Reagan

Posted On: Tuesday - March 30th 2021 9:40AM MST
In Topics: 
  History  Dead/Ex- Presidents

It was 40 years ago today. Ronald Reagan had been in the office of President for just 2 months and a week and a half, when a guy named John Hinckley shot 6 .22LR shots at him and those around him with a Röhm RG-14 revolver. None of the shots hit Reagan directly, but he was hit by the last bullet when it ricocheted off of the armored Presidential limousine.

It was not all in the same calendar year, but during that same winter of 1980-81 Pope John Paul II got shot, Reagan got shot, John Lennon got shot dead, and worst of all, Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died from heavy drinking, all within a few months as I recall. Nope, the country, the world, and music concerts were not fenced off and LOCKDOWNed, believe it or not! The Vatican has a wall though. (It's been there a while)

I know while writing this that not all real Conservatives today are fans of Ronald Reagan. They have some good points. In general, Peak Stupidity disagrees*. We have admitted the old Ronnie screwed up royally on 2 major policy strategies:

1) One (not in order, as (2) was a long-term thing) is that Mr. Reagan signed the "Immigration Reform and Control Act". (We got the immigration, but not the reform and control.) Mr. Reagan was duped by the Congressional D's, and he admitted later that it was his biggest mistake of his Presidency.

2) The other was his trusting in a deal with Congress that the domestic budget would be cut to keep the budget nearer to balanced as the military budget was ramped up to win the Cold War. No, it wasn't some deal on paper, but just a generally agreed on thing. You don't do that. He should have known not to trust those people, as civil as things still were then.

All that was still in the future on March 30th of 1981. A 25 y/o guy named John Hinckley, Jr., born as an Okie, but from Dallas, Texas, had been obsessed with impressing the actress Jodie Foster, ever since she was a juvenile actress in the movie Taxi Driver**. The movie plot has Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) attempting to assassinate a presidential candidate. Mr. Hinckley had such an obsession with Miss Foster that he moved to New Haven, where she was attending college at Yale, to better stalk her. See, now there's a big lesson for all of us: The movies, even when they were non-PC and worth a damn, were just ENTER-FREAKING-TAINMENT! The actors and hot actresses are not actually those movie characters, which is why I don't care very much who is in a movie and why we have no reason to listen to any stupid political advice out of the mouths of these people. They look good and recite lines. They don't even do most of the stunts.

OK, that off my chest, John Hinckley, Jr. felt otherwise, and, yeah, Jodie Foster was kind of hot in a way, in her day. Mr. Hinckley reckoned that shooting a President would get the kind of attention from Jodie Foster that he'd been looking for. (At least she'd read about it in the newspaper, so there's that ...)

[Picture of John Hinckley, Jr. coming.]

It's hard to believe in this day and age, but there was nothing political about the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Hell, I read somewhere (can't find it right now) that he was a Reagan supporter. From his views, one would expect that. He had stalked President Carter for a while to see how easy this assassination thing would be and got within a foot of Carter, though Hinckley was later arrested for carrying a gun in the Nashville airport.

On a trip through Washington, FS, Hinckley figured he'd have a go at the new President. He'd written a letter just before to Miss Foster, saying:
Over the past seven months I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. ... The reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you.
— John Hinckley Jr.
Yeah, he wanted to be on the cover of Newsweek. Haha, nobody wants to be on the cover of Newsweek anymore - that's a plus.

Mr. Hinckley was in the right place at the wrong time for President Reagan. Reagan was not wearing his bulletproof vest, as he was just going to walk 30 ft. from his hotel to the waiting limo. He went walking right next to some bystanders that included John Hinckley, Jr. Hinckley took his opportunity. The first shot hit Press Secretary Brady in the face, just above his left eye. A Cleveland, OH labor leader named Alfred Antenucci tackled Hinckley after the first two shots, but he kept shooting. The Secret Service guys did one hell of a job, from what I've read, considering all 6 shots were fired within 1.7 seconds. That last unlucky ricochet bullet got Reagan under the arm, through part of his lung, stopping an inch from his heart. He was rushed to the hospital

Keep in mind that these weren't ordinary .22 Long Range cartridges. The bullets had a small exploding charge. That could have been the factor that left Press Secretary Brady paralyzed.

We must keep in mind that medical science and technology was not the same 40 years ago as it is now.. Reagan had lost 1/2 of his blood by one point, between in the ER and in surgery. Reagan was out of the hospital 11 days later, but the situation was touch-and-go at points. Most people, such as I, would not have remembered that part. It was not a given that Reagan would live. Peak Stupidity will always remember that Old Ronnie was still making one-liners even in pain on a hospital bed. When being brought into the surgery room, he said to the doctors: "I hope you are all Republicans". Democrat Speaker of the House and political arch-enemy Tip O'Neil came to the hospital to visit at one point.

The difference between then and now was that America was still a civil country back then. Even Reagan’s bitterest political enemies would have wished him well. As I wrote, even John Hinckley himself had wanted Reagan to win the 1980 election. He just wanted to shoot the President, whomever it was, to impress Jodie Foster.***

Another thing an observer can see from pictures and footage from 40 years ago today is that this was such a freer country, that there is almost no comparison! The fact that a man could walk that close to the President, or at least mill about 15 ft away is amazing. No 8 ft. chain-link fence, no Jersey barriers, no walled-in anything. That included airports, for the most part. I had never gotten on an airplane in the year 1980 but had seen people off or greeted them at the terminal gate. There were metal detectors already but no TSA army and no airport prison holding pens. (That's EXACTLY what they are in effect right now, at the smaller airport terminals.)

One could say "well, Peak Stupidity blogger, that's why we haven't had an assassination attempt on a President or a close call of such since 40 years ago." I say, is that worth it to have lost part of what made this country great? No.

PS: On the conspiracy theory aspect of this happening: I learned much later that I don't like much about the late George H. W. Bush, who was 2nd-in-line to be President. He was definitely one with the Deep State. Some say the shooting 40 years ago was a warning for Reagan to not go off the plantation with his Conservatism and get with the Deep State program, or else! How do you explain the perpetrator though, on this one? He really sounds like an a-political lone nut.

* We have a 5-part series dubbed "Ronnie vs. Donnie", brought on by President Trump's comparing himself favorably to Ronald Reagan. We disagreed wholeheartedly with the braggart Trump's assessment of himself:

Part 1: Personalities ,
Part 2: Foreign Policy,
Part 3: Domestic Policy, and

** I saw that one while in college at the cheap university movie theater. It's pretty good - I'll write a review after I watch it again sometime.

*** John Hinckley, Jr. used the typical insanity defense cop-out. Sure, he may have been insane, but so what? Why not the same punishment for him as for a sane guy who shot the President? He got sent to a psychiatric hospital and was released in September of '16.

Adam Smith
Thursday - April 1st 2021 10:03AM MST
PS: One more thing...

Wikipedia lied to me. I know, shocking...

The Glock 30 was not available until 1997.
The Glock 36 was not available until 2000.

Adam Smith
Thursday - April 1st 2021 9:44AM MST
PS: Good afternoon everyone...

Mr. Blanc, you are correct. Jodie Foster is a lesbian.
You are also correct about the 80's being the time when “free trade” really started taking off.

Mr. Moderator, “that's a lot of the same typo!”
Hey, at least you're consistent.

There were some nice concealable larger caliber pistols available 40 years ago. However, most were not as concealable as a Röhm RG-14 revolver. Here's a Röhm RG-14 revolver next to a a Röhm RG-40 (.38 special) revolver for size comparison...

Here's a Smith & Wesson Model 25 .45acp 6 shot revolver from 1980...

I'm sure it's less concealable than the Röhm RG-14. The Glock 30 and 36 were designed in 1979 though I don't think they were widely available until some years later. There were definitely some better choices for concealed carry available to Hinckley...

A Walther PPK (.380) might have been my choice in 1980.
The Makarov pistol might have been an option too, but I don't know if they were available in the states.(?)

PS: Jodie Foster is the little girl (on the right) in that photo. The girl with the legs (second from the left) is Farrah Fawcett. ;-}

Wednesday - March 31st 2021 8:09PM MST
PS: Mr. Blanc, I think Reagan's biggest goal was to defeat Communism (the external kind). He was successful, but perhaps he let the rest of everything, such as the budget slide, in order to get his way and win the Cold War. Wasn't this the time that everyone was told "deficits don't matter"? (I guess lots of people still believe that - they will learn!)

I'm guessing also that Mr. Reagan just didn't know enough to see the dangers of Globalism. The American economy was still so strong that people figured we could give all kinds of things away.

Mr. Electrolytes (and I do get the reference in your handle): I agree that Reagan was a tough guy, sticking to his, or should I say America's, principles on guns even after being nearly killed. That Long March came to Hollywood early on, maybe before the faculty lounges even. That's what turned Ronald Reagan into a Conservative.
It's Got Electrolytes
Wednesday - March 31st 2021 2:27PM MST
PS The best meme shows a stern looking Reagan with the caption, almost gets assassinated but doesn't try to ban guns.
A lot of the Hollywood guys from his era loved America and served in WWII but this was before the Long March Through the Institutions that started in the faculty lounge was completed.
The faculty lounge freaks have already lost to China and we will be a serf colony to the PRC/CCP before the Kamal takes over.
Wednesday - March 31st 2021 12:01PM MST
PS It was during the Reagan years that “free trade” really took off, preventing national legislation from regulating imports from low-wage countries and controlling the export of capital. I don’t know what Reagan’s private thoughts were about this, but it was on his watch that globalism was launched. And poor, nitwit Hinckley: Jodie Foster is, so far as I know, a lesbian.
Wednesday - March 31st 2021 10:08AM MST
PS Alarmist: "I started at roughly $1k per month" Even that initial $1k, while it sounds low, is misleading. Most soldiers in their first couple years live on-base essentially for free. My son had pretty much zero living expenses his first few years. He saved a lot of money, but a lot of his buddies spent it all on women, cars and booze. The rest they wasted. ;)
The Alarmist
Wednesday - March 31st 2021 6:36AM MST

@Mr Moderator, re pay, the question is complicated by promotions and increasing time in service. I started at roughly $1k per month and ended active duty 8 years later at roughly $2.5k, with promotions and TIS accounting for most of the increase.
Wednesday - March 31st 2021 6:34AM MST
For anyone interested in MK Ultra, this article is must read. It's very long.
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 9:07PM MST
PS Followup from the previous post.

I bet the key is "should-be mental patient." I've known a couple people that I'm pretty sure were undiagnosed schizophrenics or Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers.

Especially in the BPD cases, their sense of self is pretty unformed, like a child's. I bet you can imprint whatever you want there with sufficient pressure and reinforcement.
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 9:04PM MST
PS "The key to me is that whole MK-Ultra mind-control thing. Can you really set a (should-be) mental patient off to do something like that?"

I have no idea. Whether you can or you can't, I imagine the intelligence community keeps the truth pretty deeply buried for FUD's sake, if nothing else.

I do know that I have seen in examples in my own life of the propaganda indoctrination of children and it is scary effective. I don't know how much you can do to someone if you only get them as an adult.
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 9:01PM MST
PS "[Bush] wasn't far from being on their side. though"

That's the funny thing. Every Republican general election candidate since Bush I has been extremely moderate. Bush II, you recall, was responsible for all kinds of leftist legislation, either through active participation (No Child Left Behind, Medicare Prescription Drug Plan) or through failing to stand in the way (McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform). McCain's name on McCain-Feingold pretty much says it all. They were all squish compromise candidates. Even Trump would have felt at home in the Democratic Party of 2000. The idea that they're all "literally Hitler" and right-wing ideologues is so stupid that it's hard to not view the electorate with contempt.

We haven't had an actual conservative President since Calvin Coolidge.
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 7:27PM MST
PS: I just read that article and the comments, Cloudbuster. There is a lot I could learn about this. The key to me is that whole MK-Ultra mind-control thing. Can you really set a (should-be) mental patient off to do something like that?

I am much less of a fan of George Bush, Sr, than I was at the time of his term. (And it's not like I voted for him anyway, either time. It was Libertarian for me, just after Bush Sr. spoke in Spanish for 15 seconds or so during some campaign event? "WTF?? No mas!" was what I concluded than and there.) As for the son, geeze, I knew he was no Conservative from the get-go. PeterIke notes that he got called dirty names by the left and the Lyin' Press. He wasn't far from being on their side. though, which makes me go back to my theory that these people purposefully make the squishy GOPers into Hitlers, so that the right will keep supportin said "near-Hitlers", based on "well, they really hate him, so he's our man!"
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 6:55PM MST
PS: Alarmist, did your pay go up quite a bit during the Reagan military buildup?
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 6:53PM MST
PS: Mr. Smith, that's a lot of the same typo! Not only that, but the one I got right was a cut and paste from his short love note, yet I didn't notice it. Fixed X14. I also was wondering about the 1.7 seconds, only based on someone's reacting and actually moving significantly, as the SS guy was said to have done, within that time (after 2 shots). I'd read (and read just now, but it's wiki) that the bullet that got Brady in the head did explode.

Yeah, of course he'd have done better with a larger caliber. Maybe the .22 revolver was easier to obtain and conceal, I dunno. Did they make those nice concealable larger caliber pistols back 40 years ago? Yes, Jodie Foster looks pretty nice in your image.

Lastly, I also had that song in my head while writing, but I didn't have the time to spend on some lyrics. Thanks.
The Alarmist
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 12:58PM MST
PS. uggh!

... hardly motivating ...
The Alarmist
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 12:58PM MST

I was on active duty in those days, and government shutdowns were still relatively new, so they would terrorize us to make noise to our Congress-critters by telling us that we wouldn’t get paid. That was hardly demotivating when you were deployed away from family in some third world shitehole.

I vaguely remember watching the video, and when one of the Secret Service agents whipped out his Uzi, it appeared to go off, barrel up ... I always wondered where that bullet ended up. Despite the Constitution, Al Haig assured us he was in charge.
Adam Smith
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 11:25AM MST
PS: Good afternoon everyone...

It was 40 years ago today
Ronald Reagan taught the band to play
They've been going in and out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you've know for all these years
Ronald Reagan's Lonely Hearts Club Band

So let me introduce to you
The one and only [s]Billy Shears[/s] John Hinckley Jr.
And Ronald Reagan's Lonely Hearts Club Band...

Ctrl+F Hinckley = 1
Ctrl+F Hinkley = 14

“considering all 6 shots were fired within 1.7 seconds...”
I'm skeptical. Seems a little fast.(?)
I guess Hinckley was determined to impress miss Jodie with his revolver skillz.

“The head of the company that manufacturers the Devastator ammunition said, however, the bullets were designed to explode on impact and that only intense heat or a sharp blow could cause the primer compound to ignite.”

“There was no immediate evidence that any of the bullets that struck Regan, Delahanty, White House press secretary Jim Brady and Secret Service man Tim McCarthy exploded on impact.”

I would think that a .22lr ricocheting off a limo might be a sharp enough blow to ignite the primer compound.(?) Where exactly did Hinckley acquire this ammo? Apparently he had a whole box of duds. Seems like Hinckley would have done more damage with a standard hollow point. Might have killed someone if he chose a .45acp instead of a .22lr.

I guess Reagan, and all parties involved, were pretty lucky 40 years ago today...

I do wonder though, why on earth would Jodie Foster attend Yale?

“Foster then attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She majored in African-American literature, writing her thesis on Toni Morrison under the guidance of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,”

I didn't realize that was a thing in the early 80's...

Here's a picture of Jodie Foster in Mayberry R.F.D.

Tuesday - March 30th 2021 11:07AM MST
PS: Interesting, CB. I've gotta go in a minute, but I'll check that link out later today. Thanks.
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 11:06AM MST
PS: "Ronnie Raygun", that was the big one, Peter, that I recall. Yeah, he wanted to stop Communism in El Salvador and Nicaragua. One could argue it was not necessary to do it that way. Now, we have perpetual war overseas and no-name calling on that - even for R's.

I also remember Dan Quayle and the "potato" spelling incident. What they don't mention is that is was about the plural: "potatos" or "potatoes"? Without that spellcheck just now, I would still not be sure. (I don't trust it so much either now.)

No doubt immigration is the 9 out of 10. I agree on that. It wasn't quite the numbers problem then that is was even 10 years later. (The number of illegals to be amnestied was said to be about a million. Ha, it was 3 directly, and then children, etc.) We probably have 25 million to 30 million now. The LEGAL immigration was not even discussed then. If a new bill on that had been passed, like even a watered-down 1924 bill, that could have changed everything. I would agree that Reagan wasn't up for that much conservativism.
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 11:01AM MST
PS I take most conspiracy theories with a grain of salt, but apparently the Bush and Hinckley families were friendly with each other:
Tuesday - March 30th 2021 10:13AM MST
The younguns don't know just how much vitriol was hurled at Reagan back in the day. We didn't have social media to amplify things 24x7, but the MSM was dominant, and they went into a rage. The Leftist press went totally off the deep end. In those days I read The Village Voice (an ultra-commie rag now defunct, I think, that was once wildly popular), and in the issue after Reagan was elected, EVERY story was an anti-Reagan hate fest. Seriously, I remember even the restaurant review was devoted to Reagan bashing. It was crazy.

The MSM has had the same game plan for decades when it comes to Republicans. They are either EVIL or STUPID. For the biggest enemies, you get both. Reagan was portrayed as both a drooling imbecile and an evil mastermind about to bring religious tyranny and nuclear war down on America. Yes, of course these two ideas are in direct contradiction. That never stops the Left. And you forget how relentless was the "war monger Reagan" line.

Dan Quayle was portrayed as just stupid. Bush II was mostly portrayed as stupid. Rudy Giulianni was evil. And so it goes.

Anyway, as for Reagan, yes he did a lot of good, but he whiffed bigly on immigration, and of the Top Ten Major Problems for America, immigration is nine of them. So he goes down as a failed President in my book.
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