It’s been a busy month in the news. What may have been lost in the news last week was the release of John Hinckley Jr., a man who not only stalked President Jimmy Carter and Jodie Foster, but in 1981, shot President Ronald Reagan and three others of his staff. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to the St. Elizabeth psychiatric hospital in Washington, D.C.
Hinckley has been deemed rehabilitated and was released Aug. 5.
Among his restrictions are to stay away from Jodie Foster and families of Ronald Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady and security staff Thomas Delahanty and Timothy J. McCarthy, all victims; (or any current presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress or senior members of the administration); refrain from having a social media page; not talk to the media; and have a cellphone that can track his whereabouts. Should he violate these terms, he could be sent back to St. Elizabeth’s.
Hinckley, who had numerous previous outings from the psychiatric hospital in the past, is now living with his 90-year-old mother in Kingsmill, Va.
In reading countless news articles about his release, I saw no mention of whether he should be allowed to own a gun, but likely with good reason.
“Hinckley would be disqualified under the Brady Bill,” said Doug Engel, chief deputy of the Defiance County Sheriff’s Office.
The Brady Bill, passed in 1993, requires federal background checks on those purchasing firearms. The bill has numerous prohibitions and Hinckley falls under two of them: having been in a mental hospital and being under a court order to refrain from stalking a person.
Engel noted that if Hinckley did purchase a gun he would be in violation of having a weapon under disability. “But you have to realize that in the black market, you can buy everything,” said Engel. “As a licensed sale, he would be disapproved.”
But guns are readily available for purchase at garage sales, Uncle Charlie or on Facebook — all legal to purchase, unless the person is disqualified under prohibitions of the Brady Bill.
Throwing it out there for those on Facebook, I asked for personal opinions about Hinckley’s right to own a gun.
“It’s difficult for me to understand the system,” said rural Defiance resident Olga Ruiz, “but in my opinion some people can be rehabilitated, just not this one. As for having the right to buy a gun, he’s going to get one if he wants it, and none will be the wiser.”
Archbold resident Edna Ruscigno expressed her thoughts on the matter. “He may be released but he is a criminal. He is mentally ill. He lost his rights to anything when he pulled the trigger in 1981.”
Former Defiance resident Bob Mayes added, “If the mental health system to which he was assigned has in fact ‘cured’ him of his mental health issues or has given him the ability to manage his mental health issues, there should be no concern.
“However, if John Hinckley has deceived mental health experts or chooses not to use the tools/medication provided to manage his mental health and he is a danger to himself or others, whether or not he can legally buy a firearm is mute,” he noted. Mayes went on to cite incidents involving axes, machetes and trucks.
“Simply believing we take away their ability to legally acquire their weapon of choice solves any problem, is naive at best,” he said.
Donald Rittenhouse, Defiance resident, noted that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. We have laws to keep unstable people from legally owning/obtaining firearms but there are always ways to get around the law. Prohibition did not keep people from drinking, but made some of the criminal element very wealthy. Same thing with illegal drugs. Change the Second Amendment and we have the same problem. When guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.”