It has been 30 years since John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, and I remember the moment I heard about it like it was yesterday: I was being held after class to be yelled at by my Spanish teacher when the Social Studies teacher walked in and told us that President Reagan had been shot. I was absolutely shocked. I was then kicked out of the classroom and the teachers turned on the television to watch coverage of the shooting.
Fortunately, President Reagan lived, but Press Secretary James Brady’s recovery was not complete and he was never able to assume his job as press secretary again. Of course, everyone wondered why Hinckley wanted to kill the President. Turned out, the attempted assassination was part of a wacky plot aimed to gain the attention of actress Jodie Foster. Who could have ever predicted that?
Hospital officials feel Hinckley could be set free one day
John Hinckley now resides in a mental hospital, and is allowed to visit his mother outside the facility for up to ten days at a time. A hearing is currently underway to determine what the future should hold for John Hinckley. Hospital employees say that Hinckley should be able to have longer visits with his mother and eventually, be released to live with his mom completely (assuming the longer visits go well). Hinckley’s attorney Barry Levine claims that Hinckley has not had “a single incidence of violence in excess of two decades”. (Note that he did not say “in three decades, which is how long ago the crime occurred.)
Government lawyers paint a different picture
On the other hand, prosecuters say that Hinckley acts deceptively, and that he is still a very dangerous man. One example of Hinckley’s deception was that instead of going to the movies as he stated he was going to do, he went to the book store across the street from the theater to read about President Reagan and attempted Presidential assassinations (other than Regan’s). (How dumb a move is that? He had to know he was being followed by Secret Service agents??).
Thoughts about a possible Hinckley release:
First of all, I wonder what Jodie Foster would think about Hinckley being released. I cannot imagine it would be something she would embrace enthusiastically. (Not to mention how any resident would feel if Hinckley moved next door to them.)
Second, imagine what will happen if Hinckley becomes unhinged again. One of the things that makes me the angriest about our legal system is when some ‘reformed’ criminal is released from prison and then goes on to kill (or harm) someone shortly after. I cannot say it is easy to know who is reformed or who isn’t, but I personally prefer to err on the side of caution. Yes, I recognize that jails are crowded and such, but I can think of few things I would rather the government spend money on than keeping our communities safe. I am not saying every criminal is beyond redemption, but some can probably be redeemed easier than others.
Third, is lack of recent violence proof that future violence will not occur? Hinckley was 25 years old when he shot President Reagan and four other people. Prior to the attempted assassination, Hinckley had never been convicted of any major crimes, but he still put his own life at risk and tried to assassinate a President.
Fourth, I assume he is on psychiatric drugs while in the hospital. Who will ensure he stays on his prescribed medication if he is released?
What do you think? Should he be given a second chance? Or, should the mental hospital be considered a permanent residence for Mr. Hinckley?