Take a moment.
Try to remember where you were thirty-five years ago.
Living in an apartment? Still under mom and dad's roof? Maybe you were travelling. Maybe that was when you had that roommate that insisted you join the co-op so you could get great deals on organic produce even though your diet consisted primarily of pizza, beer and Tylenol. Whatever the conditions were that you found yourselves in, they were probably a notch up from those enjoyed by John Hinckley, Jr. Three and a half decades ago, Mister Hinckley was beginning his stay at Saint Elizabeth's Hospital where he was sent after being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Not guilty of the attempted assassination of then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
Oh, and not guilty of wounding a police officer, a Secret Service agent, and Reagan's Press Secretary. You might remember that last guy: James Brady. For whom the press briefing room at the White House is named, as well as the Brady Bill. The Brady Bill which became the Brady Law in 1993, twelve years after John Hinckley Jr. shot his four victims. During those twelve years, Mister Hinckley was hospitalized under constant care and supervision. During those twelve years, a debate about gun control gained momentum until President Clinton signed the Brady Bill into law.
It would be another twenty-three years before John Hinckley Jr. was released from state care. In thirty-five years, how has the world changed? Well, there is a national system of background checks for firearms purchases. We can all take some solace in the thought that the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan may not have been as easy to carry out now as it was back then. In part because Ronald Reagan and James Brady are no longer potential targets for anyone with a grudge or Taxi Driver obsession. Are there still ways around that five day waiting period and all those intrusive questions about your criminal history or that little bout of mental illness you experienced in your twenties? Of course there are, but if we have managed to save one Secret Service agent or one Presidential Press Secretary from being maimed or killed, then we have been doing our job.
John Hinckley Jr. is now sixty-one years old. It has been determined that he is no longer a danger to himself or the public. Now if we could only get that kind of screening process for all potential gun owners.