Washington Secrets

Hinckley's shooting of Reagan used to sell gun control

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

John Hinckley Jr.'s assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan, which has its 32nd anniversary Saturday, is now being used by gun control advocates to urge wavering lawmakers to back universal background checks that include blocking weapon sales to those with a record of mental health problems.

"People like the one who shot Ronald Reagan shouldn't have access to a gun," says a new anti-gun video provided to Secrets.

It's produced by a new group called UNRA, or United Network of Rational Americans. The initials are supposed to suggest they are the counter to the NRA. It's an offshoot of Watchdog Causes, the group that produced "Dogs against Romney" videos that mocked Mitt Romney for once putting his dog in a cage on the roof of his car.

At the time of his assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, Hinckley had received psychiatric treatment for depression. He was obsessed with actress Jodie Foster and also had been arrested for gun possession.

On the 10th anniversary of the attempted killing, Reagan wrote a New York Times op-ed suggesting that tougher background checks would have snared Hinckley.

"This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now -- the Brady bill -- had been law back in 1981," wrote Reagan. "Named for Jim Brady, this legislation would establish a national seven-day waiting period before a handgun purchaser could take delivery. It would allow local law enforcement officials to do background checks for criminal records or known histories of mental disturbances. Those with such records would be prohibited from buying the handguns."

The bill became law two years later.

Now, lawmakers are pushing for universal background checks, not just those used at gun shows and in gun shops. Foes claim it would eventually require the registration of every gun in America.

Poll show support for universal background checks.

"As lifelong Southern gun owners, we strongly support America's history of responsible gun ownership," said Watchdog Causes' founder Scott Crider. "Like most gun owners, we also believe universal background checks are a necessary step that will save lives and will in no way undermine the 2nd Amendment."

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