On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Wilson Reagan exited the Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. after delivering a speech to a labor union conference.
Hundreds of spectators greeted him on the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president who had taken office less than three months earlier.
Suddenly, a man emerged from the crowd. He pulled out a .22 Röhm RG-14 revolver and fired all six rounds at the president.
Within moments, members of the crowd and Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy subdued the shooter.
At the same time, Agent Jerry Parr grabbed President Reagan and dove with him into their waiting limousine.
Though none of the rounds directly impacted Reagan, a ricochet off the side of the limousine hit the president under his left arm and lodged in his rib — a mere 25mm from his heart.
Three others, including White House Press Secretary James Brady — yes, the James Brady the Brady Bill was named for — sustained direct gunshot wounds.
The shooter was identified as John Hinckley Jr., a 25-year-old college dropout and failed songwriter.
He’d developed an infatuation with actress Jodie Foster and was upset Foster had not answered numerous love letters and poems.
He decided taking a shot at the president would be the perfect way to win her love. Ok, John.
But why a .22? Surely, if Hinckley wanted to kill the president, he’d use something with a bit more stopping power, right?
Hinckley loaded his revolver with six rounds of .22 Devastator — an explosive lead azide charge in the projectile.
Fortunate for The Gipper, the round that ricocheted did not explode when it impacted his rib.
Unfortunately for Press Secretary James Brady, the round that hit him above the eye and lodged in his skull did explode. It was the only one of the six rounds to do so.
As a result, Brady spoke with a slur and required a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
In the iconic images that came after the attack, Secret Service Agent Robert Wanko is seen standing by with an Uzi.
A specially modified briefcase designed to discreetly carry it can also be seen.
This was the first image Americans had of the Uzi on American soil. It was also the first confirmation that the Secret Service packed more than handguns.
The Uzi remained in use with the Secret Service VIP Detail through the 1990s.
Reagan made a quick recovery from the attempt on his life. But the event marked a turning point in the discussion of firearms legislation.
The .22 revolver Hinckley used was purchased five months earlier using a fake address and expired ID.
Additionally, Hinckley had been arrested just four days before making the purchase after attempting to board a plane with multiple handguns. He also had a history of psychiatric care.
The Brady Bill, first introduced in 1987 and eventually signed into law in 1993, mandates federal background checks for all firearms purchases.
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