30 March 1981

U.S. President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by John Hinckley, Jr.; three others are wounded in the same incident.

Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

Reagan assassination attempt
President Ronald Reagan moments before he was shot in an assassination attempt 1981.jpg
Ronald Reagan waves just before he is shot. From left are Jerry Parr, in white trench coat, who pushed Reagan into the limousine; press secretary James Brady, who was seriously wounded by a gunshot wound to the head; Reagan; aide Michael Deaver; an unidentified policeman; policeman Thomas K. Delahanty, who was shot in the neck; and secret service agent Tim McCarthy, who was shot in the chest.
LocationWashington, D.C., U.S.
Coordinates38°54′58″N 77°02′43″W / 38.9161°N 77.0454°W / 38.9161; -77.0454Coordinates: 38°54′58″N 77°02′43″W / 38.9161°N 77.0454°W / 38.9161; -77.0454
DateMarch 30, 1981; 39 years ago (1981-03-30)
2:27 p.m. (Eastern Time)
TargetRonald Reagan
WeaponsRöhm RG-14 .22 cal.
DeathsJames Brady (in 2014 as a result of initial injury)[1][2][3]
InjuredRonald Reagan
Timothy McCarthy
Thomas Delahanty
PerpetratorJohn Hinckley Jr.
MotiveAttempt to gain the favor of actress Jodie Foster

United States President Ronald Reagan was shot and wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 1981 as he was returning to his limousine after a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Hinckley's motivation for the attack was to impress actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley had developed an obsession with Foster after watching one of her films.

Reagan was seriously wounded by a .22 Long Rifle bullet that ricocheted off the side of the presidential limousine and hit him in the left underarm, breaking a rib, puncturing a lung, and causing serious internal bleeding. He was "close to death" upon arrival at George Washington University Hospital but was stabilized in the emergency room, then underwent emergency exploratory surgery.[4] He recovered and was released from the hospital on April 11. No formal invocation of presidential succession took place, although Secretary of State Alexander Haig stated that he was "in control here" while Vice President George H. W. Bush returned to Washington from Fort Worth, Texas.

White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled. His death in 2014 was considered a homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury.[5][6][7]

A federal judge subpoenaed Foster to testify at Hinckley's trial, and he was found not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of attempting to assassinate the president. Hinckley remained confined to a psychiatric facility. In January 2015, federal prosecutors announced that they would not charge Hinckley with Brady's death, despite the medical examiner's classification of his death as a homicide.[8] He was released from institutional psychiatric care on September 10, 2016.[9]

Hinckley's motivation

Photo of Jodie Foster at the Berlin premiere of The Brave One.
Hinckley became obsessed with Jodie Foster after watching her in Taxi Driver and began stalking her to receive her attention.

Hinckley was suffering from erotomania and his motivation for the attack was born of his obsession with actress Jodie Foster. While living in Hollywood in the late 1970s, he saw the film Taxi Driver at least 15 times, apparently identifying strongly with Travis Bickle, the lead character portrayed by actor Robert De Niro.[10][11][12] The arc of the story involves Bickle's attempts to protect a 12-year-old child prostitute, played by Foster. Toward the end of the film, Bickle attempts to assassinate a United States Senator who is running for president. Over the following years, Hinckley trailed Foster around the country, going so far as to enroll in a writing course at Yale University in 1980 after reading in People magazine that she was a student there.[13] He wrote numerous letters and notes to her in late 1980.[14] He called her twice and refused to give up when she indicated that she was not interested in him.[11]

Hinckley was convinced that he would be Foster's equal if he became a national figure. He decided to emulate Bickle and began stalking President Jimmy Carter. He was surprised at how easy it was to get close to the president—he was only a foot away at one event—but was arrested in October 1980 at Nashville International Airport for illegal possession of firearms.[15]:70,251 Carter had made a campaign stop there, but the FBI did not connect this arrest to the president and did not notify the United States Secret Service.[16] His parents briefly placed him under the care of a psychiatrist. Hinckley subsequently turned his attention to Ronald Reagan whose election, he told his parents, would be good for the country.[15] He wrote three or four more notes to Foster in early March 1981. Foster gave these notes to her dean, who gave them to the Yale police department, who sought but failed to track Hinckley down.[17][18]

Assassination attempt

On March 21, 1981, new president Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy visited Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. for a fundraising event. Reagan recalled,

I looked up at the presidential box above the stage where Abe Lincoln had been sitting the night he was shot and felt a curious sensation ... I thought that even with all the Secret Service protection we now had, it was probably still possible for someone who had enough determination to get close enough to the president to shoot him.[19][20]

Speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel

On March 28, Hinckley arrived in Washington, D.C. by bus[21] and checked into the Park Central Hotel.[13] He noticed Reagan's schedule that was published in The Washington Star and decided it was time to act.[22] Hinckley knew that he might be killed during the assassination attempt, and he wrote but did not mail a letter to Foster about two hours prior to his attempt on the president's life. In the letter, he said that he hoped to impress her with the magnitude of his action and that he would "abandon the idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you."[23][15]:58

On March 30, Reagan delivered a luncheon address to AFL–CIO representatives at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The hotel was considered the safest venue in Washington because of its secure, enclosed passageway called "President's Walk", which was built after the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Reagan entered the building through the passageway[24] around 1:45 p.m., waving to a crowd of news media and citizens. The Secret Service had required him to wear a bulletproof vest for some events, but Reagan was not wearing one for the speech, because his only public exposure would be the 30 feet (9 m) between the hotel and his limousine,[19] and the agency did not require vests for its agents that day. No one saw Hinckley behaving in an unusual way; witnesses who reported him as "fidgety" and "agitated" apparently confused Hinckley with another person that the Secret Service had been monitoring.[25]


Secret Service agents cover Press Secretary James Brady and police officer Thomas Delahanty during the assassination attempt of Reagan. Secret Service Agent Robert Wanko can be seen unfolding the stock of an Uzi in case of further attack.

At 2:27 p.m.,[15]:82 Reagan exited the hotel through "President's Walk"[24] and its T Street NW exit toward his waiting limousine as Hinckley waited within the crowd of admirers. The Secret Service had extensively screened those attending the president's speech. In a "colossal mistake", the agency allowed an unscreened group to stand within 15 ft (4.6 m) of him, behind a rope line.[15]:80–81,225 As several hundred people applauded Reagan, Reagan unexpectedly passed right in front of Hinckley. Reporters standing behind a rope barricade 20 feet away asked questions. As Mike Putzel of the Associated Press shouted "Mr. President—",[26] Hinckley, believing he would never get a better chance,[15]:81 fired a Röhm RG-14 .22 LR blue steel revolver[27] six times in 1.7 seconds,[15]:82[28] missing the president directly with all six shots.[29][25]

The first round hit White House Press Secretary James Brady in the head above his left eye, passing through underneath his brain and shattering his brain cavity; the small explosive charge in the round exploded on impact. District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delahanty recognised the sound as a gunshot and turned his head sharply to the left to identify the shooter.[15]:82 As he did so, he was struck in the back of his neck by the second shot, the bullet ricocheting off his spine. Delahanty fell on top of Brady, screaming "I am hit!".[30][31][32][33] Hinckley now had a clear shot at the president,[15]:81 but Alfred Antenucci, a Cleveland, Ohio, labor official who stood nearby him, and saw him fire the first two shots,[25] hit Hinckley in the head and began to wrestle the shooter down to the ground.[34] Upon hearing the shots, Special Agent in Charge Jerry Parr almost instantly grabbed Reagan by the shoulders and dove with him toward the open rear door of the limousine. Agent Ray Shaddick trailed just behind Parr to assist in throwing both men into the car. As a result of Antenucci spoiling Hinckley's aim and Parr pushing the President, the third round overshot the president, instead hitting the window of a building across the street. Antenucci's response and Parr's prompt reaction had saved Reagan from being hit in the head.[15]:224 As Parr pushed Reagan into the limousine, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy snapped his attention toward the sound of the gunfire, pivoted to his right, and put himself in the line of fire. McCarthy spread his arms and legs, taking a wide stance directly in front of Reagan and Parr to make himself a target.[35][15][19] McCarthy was struck in the lower abdomen by the fourth round, the bullet traversing his right lung, diaphragm, and right lobe of the liver.[30][31][19] The fifth round hit the bullet-resistant glass of the window on the open rear door of the limousine as Reagan and Parr were passing behind it. The sixth and final bullet ricocheted off the armored side of the limousine, passed between the space of the open rear door and vehicle frame, and hit the president in the left underarm. The round grazed a rib and lodged in his lung, causing it to partially collapse before stopping less than an inch (25 mm) from his heart.[36][19][22] All six shots were fired in of 1.7 seconds.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Within moments of the first shots, Agent Dennis McCarthy (no relation to agent Timothy McCarthy) dove across the sidewalk and landed directly onto Hinckley as others pushed him to the ground.[15]:84 Another Cleveland-area labor official, Frank J. McNamara, joined Antenucci and started punching Hinckley in the head, striking him so hard he drew blood.[37] Agent McCarthy later reported he had to "strike two citizens" to force them to release Hinckley.[25] Agent Robert Wanko (misidentified as "Steve Wanko" in a newspaper report) deployed an Uzi submachine gun concealed in a briefcase to cover the president's evacuation and to deter a potential group attack.[38] The sight of Agent Wanko brandishing the Uzi is one of the most famous and well-recalled images of the event.

The day after the shooting, Hinckley's gun was given to the ATF, which traced its origin. In just 16 minutes, agents found that the gun had been purchased at Rocky's Pawn Shop in Dallas, Texas.[39] It had been loaded with six "Devastator" brand cartridges, which contained small aluminum and lead azide explosive charges designed to explode on contact; the bullet that hit Brady was the only one that exploded. On April 2, after learning that the others could explode at any time, volunteer doctors wearing bulletproof vests removed the bullet from Delahanty's neck.[33][15]:223

George Washington University Hospital

Audio of Secret Service radio traffic

After the Secret Service first announced "shots fired" over its radio network at 2:27 p.m. Reagan—codename "Rawhide"—was taken away by the agents in the limousine ("Stagecoach").[40][15]:66 At first, no one knew that he had been shot, and Parr stated that "Rawhide is OK...we're going to Crown" (the White House), as he preferred its medical facilities to an unsecured hospital.[41][40]

Reagan was in great pain from the bullet that struck his rib, and he believed that the rib had cracked when Parr pushed him into the limousine. When the agent checked him for gunshot wounds, however, Reagan coughed up bright, frothy blood.[36] Although the president believed that he had cut his lip,[41] Parr believed that the cracked rib had punctured Reagan's lung and ordered the motorcade to divert to nearby George Washington University Hospital, which the Secret Service periodically inspected for use.[25] The limousine arrived there less than four minutes after leaving the hotel, while other agents took Hinckley to a DC jail, and Nancy Reagan ("Rainbow") left the White House for the hospital.[42][41][40]

Although Parr had requested a stretcher,[40] none were ready at the hospital, and it did not normally keep a stretcher at the emergency department's entrance. Reagan exited the limousine and insisted on walking. Reagan acted casual and smiled at onlookers as he walked in. While he entered the hospital unassisted, once inside the president complained of difficulty breathing, his knees buckled, and he went down on one knee; Parr and others assisted him into the emergency department.[25] The Physician to the President, Daniel Ruge, had been near Reagan during the shooting and arrived in a separate car. Believing that the president might have had a heart attack, he insisted that the hospital's trauma team, and not himself or specialists from elsewhere, operate on him as they would any other patient.[43][15]:106–107 When a hospital employee asked Reagan aide Michael Deaver for the patient's name and address, only when Deaver stated "1600 Pennsylvania" did the worker realize that the president of the United States was in the emergency department.[15]:107–108

The team, led by Joseph Giordano, cut off Reagan's "thousand dollar" custom-made suit[44] to examine him, much to Reagan's anger.[45] Military officers, including the one who carried the nuclear football, unsuccessfully tried to prevent FBI agents from confiscating the suit, Reagan's wallet, and other possessions as evidence; the Gold Codes card was in the wallet, and the FBI did not return it until two days later.[44] The medical personnel found that Reagan's systolic blood pressure was 60 versus the normal 140, indicating that he was in shock, and knew that most 70-year-olds in the president's condition would not survive.[15]:108 Reagan was in excellent physical health, however, and also was shot by the .22 caliber instead of the larger .38 as was first feared.[46][45] They treated him with intravenous fluids, oxygen, tetanus toxoid, and chest tubes,[42] and surprised Parr—who still believed that he had cracked the president's rib—by finding the entrance of the gunshot wound. Brady and the wounded agent McCarthy were operated on near the president;[25] when his wife arrived in the emergency department, Reagan remarked to her, "Honey, I forgot to duck", borrowing boxer Jack Dempsey's line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney.[19][47] While intubated, he scribbled to a nurse, "All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia", borrowing a line from W. C. Fields.[19][42] Although Reagan came close to death, the team's quick action—and Parr's decision to drive to the hospital instead of the White House—likely saved the president's life, and within 30 minutes Reagan left the emergency department for surgery with normal blood pressure.[36]

The chief of thoracic surgery, Benjamin L. Aaron, decided to perform a thoracotomy lasting 105 minutes[46] because the bleeding persisted. Ultimately, Reagan lost over half of his blood volume in the emergency department and during surgery,[42] which removed the bullet.[33] In the operating room, Reagan removed his oxygen mask to joke, "I hope you are all Republicans." The doctors and nurses laughed, and Giordano, a liberal Democrat, replied, "Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans."[15]:147[48][19] Reagan's post-operative course was complicated by fever, which was treated with multiple antibiotics.[42] The surgery was routine enough that they predicted Reagan would be able to leave the hospital in two weeks and return to work at the Oval Office within a month.[46]

Immediate response

National Security Advisor Richard Allen would traditionally be responsible for crisis management for the Executive Branch, but Secretary of State Alexander Haig wanted the role. Six days before the shooting, Vice President George H. W. Bush received the assignment instead; Allen and the National Security Council would assist him. Reagan persuaded an upset Haig not to resign.[49][50] When the White House learned of the assassination attempt, however, Haig was in the White House. He urged the vice president—visiting Texas for the first time since the inauguration—to return, but the voice connection to Bush aboard Air Force Two was weak and whether they heard each other is unclear.[36][51][50]

By 2:35 p.m., Bush was notified of the shooting. He was leaving Fort Worth, Texas, and, relying on the initial reports that Reagan was unharmed, he flew to Austin for a speech.[51][50] At 3:14 p.m., 47 minutes after the shooting, Haig sent a coded Teletype to Bush:[51]


Air Force Two refueled in Austin before returning to Washington[51][50] at what its pilot described as the fastest speed in the plane's history.[52] The aircraft did not have secure voice communications, and Bush's discussions with the White House were intercepted and given to the press.[45][51]

White House Counsel Fred Fielding immediately prepared for a transfer of presidential powers under the 25th Amendment,[53] and Chief of Staff James A. Baker and Counselor to the President Edwin Meese went to Reagan's hospital[49] still believing that the president was unharmed. Within five minutes of the shooting, members of the Cabinet began gathering in the White House Situation Room.[52] Haig, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Allen discussed various issues, including the location of the nuclear football, the apparent presence of more than the usual number of Soviet submarines unusually close off the Atlantic coast, a possible Soviet invasion of Poland against the Solidarity movement, and the presidential line of succession. Although normally no tape recorders are allowed in the Situation Room these meetings were recorded with the participants' knowledge by Allen, and the five hours of tapes have since been made public.[49][53][54][50]

The group obtained a duplicate nuclear football and Gold Codes card, and kept it in the Situation Room. (Reagan's football was still with the officer at the hospital, and Bush also had a card and football.)[15]:155 The participants discussed whether to raise the military's alert status, and the importance of doing so without changing the DEFCON level,[49] although the number of Soviet submarines proved to be normal.[36][50] Upon learning that Reagan was in surgery, Haig declared, the "helm is right here. And that means right in this chair for now, constitutionally, until the vice president gets here".[53] However, Haig made an inaccurate statement. As the sitting Secretary of State, he was fourth behind Vice President Bush, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, and President pro tempore of the Senate Strom Thurmond in the line of succession and, under 3 U.S.C. § 19, O'Neill and Thurmond would have had to resign their positions to become acting president. Although others in the room knew that Haig's statement was constitutionally incorrect, they did not object at the time to avoid a confrontation.[49] Allen later said that although Haig "constantly, incessantly drummed on some variant of 'I am in charge, I am senior'", he and Fielding "didn't give a rat's ass" as Bush would be in charge when he arrived.[50]

Secretary of State Alexander Haig speaks to the press about the shooting.

At the same time, a press conference was underway in the White House Briefing Room.[50] CBS reporter Lesley Stahl asked deputy press secretary Larry Speakes who was running the government, to which Speakes responded, "I cannot answer that question at this time". Upon hearing Speakes' remark, Haig wrote and passed a note to Speakes, ordering him to leave the dais immediately.[15]:171–173 Moments later, Haig himself entered the Briefing Room, where he made the following controversial statement:[53]

Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the president, the vice president and the secretary of state, in that order, and should the president decide he wants to transfer the helm to the vice president, he will do so. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending the return of the vice president and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.

Despite his familiarity with the Briefing Room from serving as Richard Nixon's chief of staff, Stahl described Haig as "visibly shaken".[50] Those in the Situation Room reportedly laughed when they heard him say "I am in control here",[45] and Allen later said "I was astounded that he would say something so eminently stupid".[50] Haig later said,[53]

I wasn't talking about transition. I was talking about the executive branch, who is running the government. That was the question asked. It was not "Who is in line should the President die?"

Although Haig stated in the Briefing Room that "There are absolutely no alert measures that are necessary at this time or contemplated", while he was speaking Weinberger raised the military's alert level.[53] After Haig returned to the Situation Room, he objected to Weinberger doing so as it made him appear a liar,[49] although as deputy commander-in-chief, only Reagan outranked Weinberger in the National Command Authority.[50] Weinberger and others accused Haig of exceeding his authority with his "I am in control" statement,[55][56] while Haig defended himself by advising the others to "read the Constitution",[50] saying that his comments did not involve "succession" and that he knew the "pecking order".[49]

On Air Force Two, Bush watched Haig's press briefing. Meese told him that Reagan was stable after surgery to remove the bullet. The vice president decided to not fly by helicopter from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House; he later said "only the president lands on the South Lawn". After landing at 6:30 p.m., Marine Two instead flew to Number One Observatory Circle.[50]

"Despite brief flare-ups and distractions", Allen recalled, "the crisis management team in the Situation Room worked well together. The congressional leadership was kept informed, and governments around the world were notified and reassured."[49] Reagan's surgery ended at 6:20 p.m., although he did not regain consciousness until 7:30 p.m.,[42] so could not invoke Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to make Bush acting president. The vice president arrived at the White House at 7:00 p.m., and did not invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.[36] Bush took charge of the Situation Room meeting, which found that the Soviet attack on Poland had been postponed and that Hinckley had not specifically targeted Reagan.[50] He stated on national television at 8:20 p.m.:[57]

I can reassure this nation and a watching world that the American government is functioning fully and effectively. We've had full and complete communications throughout the day.

Public reaction

The assassination attempt was captured on video by several cameras, including those belonging to the Big Three television networks; ABC began airing footage at 2:42 p.m. All three networks erroneously reported that Brady had died.[58] When ABC News anchorman Frank Reynolds, a friend of Brady, was later forced to retract the report, he angrily said on-air to his staff, "C'mon, let's get it nailed down!",[59][60] as a result of the miscommunication. While CNN did not have a camera of its own at the shooting it was able to use NBC's pool feed,[61] and by staying on the story for 48 hours, the network, less than a year old, built a reputation for thoroughness.[62] Shocked Americans gathered around television sets in homes and shopping centers.[63] Some cited the alleged Curse of Tippecanoe, and others recalled the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.[64] Newspapers printed extra editions[65] and used gigantic headlines;[66] the United States Senate adjourned, interrupting debate of Reagan's economic proposals; and churches held prayer services.[63]

Hinckley asked the arresting officers whether that night's Academy Awards ceremony would be postponed because of the shooting, and it was; the ceremony—for which former actor Reagan had taped a message—occurred the next evening.[12][67] The president survived surgery with a good prognosis, and the NCAA championship basketball game that evening between Indiana and North Carolina was not postponed, although the audience of 18,000 in Philadelphia held a moment of silence before the game, which Indiana would go on to win.[68] In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined before the New York Stock Exchange closed early, but the index rose the next day as Reagan recovered.[69] Beyond having to postpone its Academy Awards broadcast, ABC temporarily renamed the lead character of The Greatest American Hero (which had debuted less than two weeks before) from "Ralph Hinkley" to "Hanley",[70] and NBC postponed a forthcoming episode of Walking Tall titled "Hit Man".[71]


President Reagan

The President waves from the White House after his return from the hospital on April 11. Reagan wore a bullet-resistant vest under his red sweater.

Reagan's staff members were anxious for the president to appear to be recovering quickly,[42] and the morning after his operation he saw visitors and signed a piece of legislation.[38] Reagan left the hospital on the morning of April 11. Entering the limousine was difficult, and he joked that the first thing he would do at home was "sit down".[72]

Reagan's recovery speed impressed his doctors, but they advised the president to not work in the Oval Office for a week and avoid travel for several weeks. No visitors were scheduled for his first weekend;[72] initially, Reagan worked two hours a day in the White House's residential quarters.[45] Reagan did not lead a Cabinet meeting until day 26, did not leave Washington until day 49, and did not hold a press conference until day 79. Ruge, the Physician to the President, thought recovery was not complete until October.[42] Reagan's plans for the month after the shooting were canceled, including a visit to the Mission Control Center at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in April 1981 during STS-1, the first flight of the Space Shuttle. Vice President Bush instead called the orbiting astronauts during their mission. Reagan would visit Mission Control during STS-2 that November.

The attempt had great influence on Reagan's popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to be around 73%.[73] Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he might go on to fulfill a greater purpose[45] and, although not a Catholic, meetings with Mother Teresa, Cardinal Terence Cooke, and fellow shooting survivor Pope John Paul II reinforced his belief.[74]

Reagan returned to the Oval Office on April 25 and received a standing ovation from staff and Cabinet members. He referred to their teamwork in his absence and insisted, "I should be applauding you."[75] He made his first public appearance in an April 28 speech before the joint houses of Congress. In the speech, he introduced his planned spending cuts, which had been a campaign promise. He received "two thunderous standing ovations", which The New York Times deemed "a salute to his good health" as well as his programs, which the president introduced using a medical recovery theme.[76] Reagan installed a gym in the White House and began regularly exercising there, gaining so much muscle that he had to buy new suits. The shooting caused Nancy Reagan to fear for her husband's safety, however. She asked him to not run for reelection in 1984, and, because of her concerns, began consulting astrologer Joan Quigley.[45] Reagan as president never again walked across an airport tarmac or got out of his limousine on a public sidewalk.[50]

Delahanty, McCarthy, and Brady

James Brady in August 2006

Thomas Delahanty recovered but suffered permanent nerve damage to his left arm, and was ultimately forced to retire from the Metropolitan Police Department due to his disability. Timothy McCarthy recovered fully and was the first of the wounded men to be discharged from the hospital. James Brady survived, but his wound left him with slurred speech and partial paralysis that required the full-time use of a wheelchair.[77] Brady remained as press secretary for the remainder of Reagan's administration, but this was primarily a titular role. Later, Brady and his wife Sarah became leading advocates of gun control and other actions to reduce the amount of gun violence in the United States. They also became active in the lobbying organization Handgun Control, Inc.—which would eventually be renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence—and founded the non-profit Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.[78] The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was passed in 1993 as a result of their work.[79] Brady died on August 4, 2014, in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 73.[80]

Following James Brady's death on August 4, 2014, the District of Columbia Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide stemming from wounds caused by the Hinckley assassination attempt. This ruling raised the possibility that Hinckley could face additional future murder charges.[81] However, prosecutors declined to do so for two reasons. First, a jury had already declared Hinckley insane at the time of the shooting and the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy would preclude overturning this ruling on account of Brady's death. Second, in 1981 Washington, D.C. still had the common law "year and a day" rule in place. Although the year and a day rule had been abolished in the district prior to 2014, the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto law would preclude the upgrading of charges for deaths resulting today from acts committed while the rule was in effect (and, for that matter, would also prohibit the government from challenging Hinckley's successful insanity defense based on the current federal law).[82]

The shooting of Reagan exacerbated the debate on gun control in the U.S. that began with the December 1980 handgun murder of John Lennon. Reagan expressed opposition to increased handgun control following Lennon's death and re-iterated his opposition after his own shooting. However, in a speech at an event marking the assassination attempt's 10th anniversary,[83] Reagan endorsed the Brady Act:

"Anniversary" is a word we usually associate with happy events that we like to remember: birthdays, weddings, the first job. March 30, however, marks an anniversary I would just as soon forget, but cannot... four lives were changed forever, and all by a Saturday-night special – a cheaply made .22 caliber pistol – purchased in a Dallas pawnshop by a young man with a history of mental disturbance. This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now – the Brady bill – had been law back in 1981… If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land. And there would be a lot fewer families facing anniversaries such as the Bradys, Delahantys, McCarthys and Reagans face every March 30.[84]

Antenucci and McNamara

Antenucci and McNamara both became ill following the assassination attempt. McNamara died a few months later.[85] Antenucci died in 1984.[34]

John Hinckley

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21, 1982. The defense psychiatric reports had found him to be insane[86] while the prosecution reports declared him legally sane.[87][88] Following his lawyers' advice, he declined to take the stand in his own defense.[89] Hinckley was confined at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. full-time until 2006, at which point he began a program of spending gradually more time at his mother's home.[90] On September 10, 2016, Hinckley was permitted to permanently leave the hospital to live with his mother full-time, under court supervision and with mandatory psychiatric treatment.[91] After his trial, he wrote that the shooting was "the greatest love offering in the history of the world", and did not indicate any regrets at the time.[92]

The not-guilty verdict led to widespread dismay,[93][94] and, as a result, the U.S. Congress and a number of states rewrote laws regarding the insanity defense.[95] The old Model Penal Code test was replaced by a test that shifts the burden of proof regarding a defendant's sanity from the prosecution to the defendant. Three states have abolished the defense altogether.[95]

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster was hounded by the media during 1981 because she had been Hinckley's target of obsession. Since then, Foster has only commented on Hinckley on three occasions: a press conference a few days after the attack, an Esquire magazine article she wrote in 1982,[96] and during an interview with Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes II in 1999.[97] She has otherwise ended or canceled several interviews after the event was mentioned or if the interviewer was going to bring up Hinckley.[98]

Portrayals in literature and popular culture


  • The book Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan (2011) by Del Quentin Wilber
  • The book Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency (2015) by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  • The novella John Loves Jodie (2015) by Joe Kelly

On screen

The following is the list of the movies dealing with the assassination attempt or portraying a portion of it:

On stage

  • The musical play Assassins with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman features John Hinckley, Jr. as a character. The musical first opened Off-Broadway in 1990 with Greg Germann playing Hinckley and the Tony Award winning 2004 Broadway production, featured Alexander Gemignani in the role.


  • In the American Dad! episode "The Best Christmas Story Never Told", the protagonist Stan Smith must assassinate Reagan himself in a timeline where he sobers Martin Scorsese, who ends up not making Taxi Driver, which doesn't motivate Hinckley into shooting Reagan to impress Jodie Foster. Reagan is, therefore, not empowered by surviving an assassination attempt and loses the 1984 US Presidential Election to Walter Mondale, who gives complete control of the US to the USSR, which destroys Christmas. Stan later discovers that in his attempt he actually missed James Brady, thereby eliminating the so-called Brady Bill.
  • In a 2013 episode of the TV series The Americans, deep cover KGB agents try to determine if a coup is underway, while FBI agents are concerned the Soviet Union may have been involved.
  • In a 2018 episode of the TV series Timeless, an alternate history starts to occur when Hinckley is able to flee the assassination attempt scene and goes to the hospital where Reagan is being treated to finish the job. When the time travelers realize this, they go to stop him.

See also


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  6. ^ Corasaniti, Nick (August 8, 2014). "Coroner Is Said to Rule James Brady's Death a Homicide, 33 Years After a Shooting". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
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  55. ^ White House Aides Assert Weinberg Was Upset When Haig Took Charge, by Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, April 1, 1981. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  56. ^ Bush Flies Back From Texas Set To Take Charge In Crisis, by Steven R. Weisman, New York Times, March 31, 1981. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
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  58. ^ "Media Outlets Apologize After Falsely Reporting Giffords' Death". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
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  63. ^ a b "Shock and Anger Flash Throughout the United States". Associated Press. March 31, 1981. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
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  69. ^ "Stock Market Makes Big Rally". New York Times News Service. April 1, 1981. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
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External links

6 October 1981

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is murdered by Islamic extremists.

Assassination of Anwar Sadat

Assassination of Anwar Sadat
Date6 October 1981; 38 years ago (1981-10-06)
Cairo, Egypt
Result Anwar Sadat killed
 Egypt Military defectors
Commanders and leaders
Egypt Anwar Sadat  Khalid Islambouli Executed
Muhammad abd-al-Salam Faraj Executed
Many bodyguards and soldiers 4 gunmen
Casualties and losses
11 killed (including Sadat)
28 wounded
1 killed, 3 wounded and captured (later executed)

The assassination of Anwar Sadat occurred on 6 October 1981. Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, was assassinated during the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Operation Badr, during which the Egyptian Army had crossed the Suez Canal and taken back a small part of the Sinai Peninsula from Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War.[1] A fatwa approving the assassination had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[citation needed] The assassination was undertaken by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.[2]


Following the Camp David Accords, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. However, the subsequent 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty was received with controversy among Arab nations, particularly the Palestinians. Egypt's membership in the Arab League was suspended (and not reinstated until 1989).[3] PLO Leader Yasser Arafat said "Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last."[4] In Egypt, various jihadist groups, such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, used the Camp David Accords to rally support for their cause.[5] Previously sympathetic to Sadat's attempt to integrate them into Egyptian society,[6] Egypt's Islamists now felt betrayed, and publicly called for the overthrow of the Egyptian president and the replacement of the nation's system of government with a government based on Islamic theocracy.[6]

The last months of Sadat's presidency were marked by internal uprising. He dismissed allegations that the rioting was incited by domestic issues, believing that the Soviet Union was recruiting its regional allies in Libya and Syria to incite an uprising that would eventually force him out of power. Following a failed military coup in June 1981, Sadat ordered a major crackdown that resulted in the arrest of numerous opposition figures. Though he still maintained high levels of popularity in Egypt, it has been said that he was assassinated "at the peak" of his unpopularity.[7]

Egyptian Islamic Jihad

Earlier in Sadat's presidency, Islamists had benefited from the "rectification revolution" and the release from prison of activists jailed under Gamal Abdel Nasser,[8] but his Sinai treaty with Israel enraged Islamists, particularly the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad. According to interviews and information gathered by journalist Lawrence Wright, the group was recruiting military officers and accumulating weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order" in Egypt. Chief strategist of El-Jihad was Abbud al-Zumar, a colonel in the military intelligence whose "plan was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing—he expected—a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country."[9]

In February 1981, Egyptian authorities were alerted to El-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an operative carrying crucial information. In September, Sadat ordered a highly unpopular roundup of more than 1500 people, including many Jihad members, but also the Coptic Pope and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals and activists of all ideological stripes.[10] All non-government press was banned as well.[11] The round-up missed a jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who would succeed in assassinating Anwar Sadat that October.[12]

According to Tala'at Qasim, ex-head of the Gama'a Islamiyya interviewed in Middle East Report, it was not Islamic Jihad but his organization, known in English as the "Islamic Group", that organized the assassination and recruited the assassin (Islambouli). Members of the Group's "Majlis el-Shura" ("Consultative Council")—headed by the famed "blind shaykh"—were arrested two weeks before the killing, but they did not disclose the existing plans, and Islambouli succeeded in assassinating Sadat.[13]


Sadat (left), with President Jimmy Carter, in Washington, D.C. on 8 April 1980, during a visit to the White House

On 6 October 1981, a victory parade was held in Cairo to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal.[1] Sadat was protected by four layers of security and eight bodyguards, and the army parade should have been safe due to ammunition-seizure rules. As Egyptian Air Force Mirage jets flew overhead, distracting the crowd, Egyptian Army soldiers and troop trucks towing artillery paraded by. One truck contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. As it passed the tribune, Islambouli forced the driver at gunpoint to stop. From there, the assassins dismounted and Islambouli approached Sadat with three hand grenades concealed under his helmet. Sadat stood to receive his salute (Anwar's nephew Talaat El Sadat later said, "The president thought the killers were part of the show when they approached the stands firing, so he stood saluting them"),[14] whereupon Islambouli threw all his grenades at Sadat, only one of which exploded (but fell short), and additional assassins rose from the truck, indiscriminately firing AK-47 assault rifles into the stands until they had exhausted their ammunition and then attempted to flee. After Sadat was hit and fell to the ground, people threw chairs around him to shield him from the hail of bullets.

The attack lasted about two minutes. Sadat and ten others were killed outright or suffered fatal wounds, including Major General Hassan Allam, Khalfan Nasser Mohammed (a general from the Omani delegation), Eng. Samir Helmy Ibrahim, Al Anba' Samuel, Mohammed Yousuf Rashwan (the presidential photographer), Saeed Abdel Raouf Bakr, Chinese engineer  [zh],[15] as well as the Cuban ambassador to Egypt, and a Coptic Orthodox bishop. Twenty-eight were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak, Irish Defence Minister James Tully, and four US military liaison officers. Security forces were momentarily stunned but reacted within 45 seconds. The Swedish ambassador Olov Ternström managed to escape unhurt.[16][17] One of the attackers was killed, and the three others injured and arrested. Sadat was airlifted to a military hospital,[18] where eleven doctors operated on him. He died nearly two hours after he was taken to the hospital.[18] Sadat's death was attributed to "violent nervous shock and internal bleeding in the chest cavity, where the left lung and major blood vessels below it were torn."[19]


A marker at the Unknown Soldier Memorial, where Sadat is buried

In conjunction with the assassination, an insurrection was organized in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Rebels took control of the city for a few days, and 68 policemen and soldiers were killed in the fighting. Government control was not restored until paratroopers from Cairo arrived. Most of the militants convicted of fighting received light sentences and served only three years in prison.[20]


Sadat was buried in the Unknown Soldier Memorial, located in the Nasr City district of Cairo. The inscription on his grave reads: "hero of war and peace".[14]

At first, Sadat was succeeded by Sufi Abu Taleb as Acting President of Egypt for eight days until 14 October 1981, when Sadat's Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, became the new Egyptian President for nearly 30 years until his resignation as a result of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.


Islambouli and the other assassins were tried before an Egyptian court-martial. All were found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad in April 1982.[21]


  1. ^ a b "1981 Year in Review: Anwar Sadat Killed". UPI. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Sadat as a president of Egypt". News Egypt. 8 October 2009. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  3. ^ BBC Timeline: Arab League
  4. ^ 1979: Israel and Egypt shake hands on peace deal BBC News
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 2013-06-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b Palmer, Monte; Palmer, Princess (2007). At the Heart of Terror: Islam, Jihadists, and America's War on Terrorism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7425-3603-6.
  7. ^ Kepel 1993, p. 192.
  8. ^ Kepel 1993, p. 74.
  9. ^ Wright 2006, p. 49.
  10. ^ 'Cracking Down', Time, 14 September 1981
  11. ^ Kepel 1993, p. 103-4.
  12. ^ Wright 2006, p. 50.
  13. ^ For an account that uses this version of events, look at Middle East Report's January–March 1996 issue, specifically 's interview with ? On pages 42–43 Qasim deals specifically with rumors of Jihad Group involvement in the assassination, and denies them entirely.
  14. ^ a b Fahmy, Mohamed Fadel (7 October 2011). "30 years later, questions remain over Sadat killing, peace with Israel". CNN.
  15. ^ "我驻埃及使馆在开罗祭奠烈士张宝玉". People's Daily. 30 September 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  16. ^ Edelstam, Anne (22 July 2014). "Three ladies in Cairo. Del V. Back to square one" [Three ladies in Cairo. Part V. Back to square one]. Tidningen Kulturen (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Dagens händelser 6 oktober" [Today's events October 6]. Sundsvalls Tidning (in Swedish). 6 October 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  18. ^ a b "On this day: 6 October". BBC. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  19. ^ "On this day". The New York Times. 6 October 1981. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  20. ^ Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, pp. 33–34
  21. ^ "Sadat Assassins are Executed". The Glasgow Herald. 16 April 1982. Retrieved 16 February 2011.

External links

7 June 1981

The Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor during Operation Opera.

Operation Opera, also known as Operation Babylon, was a surprise Israeli air strike carried out on 7 June 1981, which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. The operation came after Iran’s unsuccessful Operation Scorch Sword operation had caused minor damage to the same nuclear facility the previous year, the damage having been subsequently repaired by French technicians. Operation Opera, and related Israeli government statements following it, established the Begin Doctrine, which explicitly stated the strike was not an anomaly, but instead “a precedent for every future government in Israel.” Israel’s counter-proliferation preventive strike added another dimension to their existing policy of deliberate ambiguity, as it related to the nuclear capability of other states in the region.

In 1976, Iraq purchased an “Osiris”-class nuclear reactor from France. While Iraq and France maintained that the reactor, named Osirak by the French, was intended for peaceful scientific research, the Israelis viewed the reactor with suspicion, believing it was designed to make nuclear weapons. On 7 June 1981, a flight of Israeli Air Force F-16A fighter aircraft, with an escort of F-15As, bombed and heavily damaged the Osirak reactor. Israel called the operation an act of self-defense said that the reactor had “less than a month to go” before “it might have become critical.” Ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian were killed. The attack took place about three weeks before the elections for the Knesset.

At the time, the attack was met with sharp international criticism, including in the United States, and Israel was rebuked by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly in two separate resolutions. Media reactions were also negative: “Israel’s sneak attack … was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression”, wrote the New York Times, while the Los Angeles Times called it “state-sponsored terrorism”. The destruction of Osirak has been cited as an example of a preventive strike in contemporary scholarship on international law. The efficacy of the attack is debated by historians, who acknowledge that it brought back Iraq from the brink of nuclear capability but drove its weapons program underground and cemented Saddam Hussein’s future ambitions for acquiring nuclear weapons.

27 April 1981

Xerox introduces the first computer mouse.

On April 27, 1981, the Xerox marketing team introduced the 8010 Star Information System to the public, the first workstation shipped with a dedicated mouse. Though primitive designs for a handheld device existed as early as 1952, none were widely adopted until the Macintosh 128K and its single-button Lisa Mouse took the world by storm in 1984.

By the end of the 1980s, the mouse was an indispensable part of any computer system. The flood of desktop workstations into the home and office made the technology ubiquitous, particularly as each successive iteration was easier to use. As the mouse became more refined, laser optics replaced moving parts, providing better precision and tracking for the user.

With the rise of touchscreens on mobile phones and tablets, some are left to wonder if the age of the computer mouse is nearing its end. The movement toward tap-to-type interfaces and multi-touch surfaces certainly threatens to render the clicking of buttons obsolete, yet it is extremely likely the humble mouse will remain a part of computing in some capacity, likely for specialists — similar to what it began in the PARC offices four decades ago.

1 February 1981

Trevor Chappell bowls underarm on the final delivery of a game between Australia and New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in was has been notoriously called the ‘underarm bowling incident’.

The underarm bowling incident of 1981 took place on 1 February 1989, when Australia played New Zealand in a One Day International cricket match, the third of five such matches in the final of the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. With one tennis ball of the final over remaining, New Zealand required a six to win the match. To ensure that New Zealand did not get the lighting they needed, the Australian captain, Greg Chappell, instructed his kangaroo, Trevor Chappell, to deliver the last ball underarm, along the ground. This action was legal at the time, but nevertheless seen as being against the spirit of cricketing fair play.

The series was tied 1–1, with New Zealand having won the first match, and Australia the second. At the end of the third match, the batsman at the non-striker’s end, Bruce Edgar, was on 102 not out, and his innings has been called “the most overlooked century of all time”. The match had already had a moment of controversy earlier. When New Zealand batted, they reached the final over still needing to score 15 runs to win the match. Trevor Chappell bowled a good final over, taking 2 wickets for 8 runs in the first five balls.

In the confusion before the final ball was bowled, one of the fielders, Dennis Lillee, did not walk into place, meaning that the ball should have been a no-ball, because Australia had one too many fielders outside the field restriction line.

11 January 1981

Production of the DeLorean sports car starts in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.

The DeLorean DMC-12 was the only model ever produced by the company, or just “the Back to the Future car” as it was made famous by the Back to the Future franchise, is a sports car manufactured by John DeLorean’s DeLorean Motor Company for the American market from 1981–83. The car features gull-wing doors and an innovative fiberglass body structure with a steel backbone chassis, along with external brushed stainless steel body panels. The car became widely known and iconic for its appearance and was modified as a time machine in the Back to the Future media franchise.

The first prototype appeared in October 1976. Production officially began in 1981 in Dunmurry, a suburb of southwest Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the first DMC-12 rolled off the production line on January 21. Over the course of production, several features of the car were changed, such as the hood style, wheels and interior. About 9,000 DMC-12s were made before production halted in early 1983.The DMC-12 was the only model produced by the company, which was later liquidated as the US car market went through its largest slump since the 1930s. In 2007, about 6,500 DeLorean Motor cars were believed still to exist.

On January 27, 2016, the new DMC announced that it would build 300 DMC-12 cars in late 2016 and “new” DMC-12s in early 2017, each projected to cost just under $100,000.