A federal judge on Monday ruled that John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Reagan 40 years ago, can be freed from all remaining restrictions next year if he continues to follow those rules and remains mentally stable.
But presidential historian Craig Shirley, who has written several books on Reagan, said that decision is a mistake.
“This man should either be institutionalized, either behind bars as a common criminal or in a mental institution for the criminally insane,” Shirley told Monday’s “Rob Schmitt Tonight,” Newsmax reports. “But one way or the other, he should not be walking among us.”
Hinckley, now 66, was 25 when he shot and wounded the 40th U.S. president outside a Washington, D.C., hotel. While Reagan recovered from his injuries, his press secretary, James Brady, was paralyzed for the rest of his life. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded.
Reagan “almost died that day,” Shirley said.
“He had a Devastator bullet burning inside of his chest, one inch from his heart,” Shirley said. “Thank God it didn’t explode, or else he would have died, too. He lost half the blood in his body, one lung had collapsed, he was near going into shock, which was a precursor for death.”
“Reagan came as close as a human being can come to dying but didn’t die that day.”
Shirley also noted that Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan may be released from prison. “Robert Kennedy had his life taken away, and Sirhan Sirhan should never be allowed to leave prison; same thing with Hinckley: He killed Jim Brady,” Shirley said.
The historian also noted that the coroner ruled when Brady passed away in 2014 that he died by homicide from the injuries sustained in Hinckley’s shooting.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington said during a 90-minute court hearing that he’ll issue his final ruling on the plan this week.
“Since Hinckley moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, from a Washington hospital in 2016, court-imposed restrictions have required doctors and therapists to oversee his psychiatric medication and therapy. Hinckley has been barred from having a gun. And he can’t contact Reagan’s children, other victims or their families, or actress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with at the time of the 1981 shooting,” The Associated Press reported.
“Friedman said Hinckley, now 66, has displayed no symptoms of active mental illness, no violent behavior and no interest in weapons since 1983,” reports AP.
“If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long, long time ago,” the judge said. “But everybody is comfortable now after all of the studies, all of the analysis and all of the interviews and all of the experience with Mr. Hinckley.”
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said in a statement that it was “saddened” by the court’s plan.
“Contrary to the judge’s decision, we believe John Hinckley is still a threat to others and we strongly oppose his release,” the foundation said. “Our hope is that the Justice Department will file a motion with the court leading to a reversal of this decision.”