Lethal Weapon

Here’s a sign of just how irrational America’s gun nuts are: they don’t seem to comprehend the importance of keeping firearms out of the hands of deranged individuals, even though the man they consider an icon was almost killed by one.

March 30 will mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s near-assassination at the hands of John Hinckley. The shooting, which severely wounded White House Press Secretary James Brady, should have destroyed America’s gun-nut culture for good. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Despite my criticism of President Reagan’s right-wing political agenda, there is no question that had Reagan died that day, it would have been an international tragedy every bit as shameful as the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy. Hinckley’s gun almost murdered our democracy, our sense of security, our national confidence. At that point, there should have been an aggressive national push to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill–a national push that would have saved countless lives.

Yes, the Brady bill, endorsed by Reagan in 1991, became law in 1993–but so much more should have been done. So much more needed to be done.

You’d figure that the folks who worship Reagan like he’s a second Jesus would have been so shocked by the attempted murder of their hero that they would join progressives in calling for comprehensive gun reform, to make sure no deranged person could ever do something like this again. You’d figure that conservatives would embrace gun reform as a “pro-life” measure. You’d figure that terrorism-obsessed right-wingers would support gun reform in order to keep ISIS loyalists from shooting up Christmas parties.

Of course, you’d figure wrong.

Just think about how twisted the right-wing mind is: conservative lore holds that Ronald Reagan single-handedly conquered the Soviet Union and won the Cold War. How many times have your Fox News-watching acquaintances pointed to the June 1987 “Tear Down This Wall” speech as an example of Reagan’s strength and smarts?

Reagan would not have been able to deliver that speech–or “win” the Cold War–had he been murdered by a crazed man with a gun in 1981. That fact alone should have motivated rational conservatives to support strong gun reform…but there are no rational conservatives in this country, just wingnuts who don’t get it and never will.

UPDATE: Coverage of the Reagan assassination attempt from ABC and NBC. Plus, CBS on the 2014 passing of James Brady and the 2015 passing of Sarah Brady.

SECOND UPDATE: More from the New York Times and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

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D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.