A Sickness Unto Death—Guns By Howard Bloom

Politics, US News

The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr, is reappearing in headlines after 41 years.  Why? A federal judge plans to set him free on June 15th.

Hinckley’s reappearance is a reminder. It’s a reminder that America suffers from a pandemic of gun addiction.  There are 330 million Americans and 390 million American guns.

Guns don’t mix with human nature. Put guns together with our insanities and you have a lethal mix. And we are all just a wee bit insane.

But the lethal mix of guns and human nature also explodes in people who are totally sane.  We don’t yet know if the Uvalde, Texas, shooter  who killed 19 children and two teachers on May 24th was sane. There are hints that he was delusional.  But it appears as if the Buffalo, New York, shooter who killed ten was perfectly sane.  Sane but infected with a poisonous ideology.

So whether guns are in the hands of sane Americans or insane Americans, guns in the hands of American citizens increases the number of murders in America. Massively. Look, England had 504 murders in 2021. Japan had 874.   We had over 19,000. Yes, we had as many murders in a year as England has in 38 years.

On the weekend after the Uvalde shooting, the weekend of Memorial Day, we had another nine killed and 70 wounded by mass shootings.   And at 4:52 pm Central time on Wednesday June 2nd, five  were dead and many were injured in a shooting on the second floor of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Natalie medical building.  Guns do not go well with human nature.

John Hinckley Jr was a gun nut. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Hinckley started buying guns and practicing with them.  Hinckley had a pocket-sized .22 caliber pistol loaded with Devastator bullets, bullets designed to explode on impact.

On March 30, 1981, at 2:27 p.m. eastern time, Hinckley used that pistol in an effort to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Reagan gave a speech to labor leaders of the AFL/CIO, left the Washington Hilton, and was about to step into his limousine. Hinckley aimed his gun and fired.  One of Hinckley’s Devastator bullets ricocheted off Reagan’s limo and hit the President near the heart, almost killing him.  Another entered the head of presidential press Secretary James Brady, paralyzing him for life.

What was going through Hinckley’s mind as he took aim and fired?  He had seen the film Taxi Driver, in which Robert De Niro  plans to assassinate a presidential candidate.  In the film, Jody Foster plays a 12-year-old prostitute.  From that moment on, Hinckley was obsessed with Jody Foster.  He sent her a flood of letters, poems, and voice messages.  But that did not bring him Foster’s attention.  So he decided to make what he called “the greatest love offering in history.”   He decided to get Foster’s attention by shooting the president.

On June 20, 1982, a jury declared Hinckley not guilty by virtue of insanity.   It remanded Hinckley to a psychiatric hospital.  Some say that from that point on, Hinckley received more intense therapy for mental illness than any other person in history.

But in the early years, Hinckley was still delusional.  He started a mail correspondence with mass-killer Ted Bundy, who had murdered more than 20 women.  He tried to get the address of another famous jailed mass murderer, Charles Manson.  He did not succeed.  In other words, Hinckley was trying to create a family of famous mass murderers.

But it’s 40 years later. The Federal judge who has been overseeing Hinckley since 2016  believes Hinckley is now harmless. Hinckley has lived first with his mother, then, when his mother died, on his own since 2016.  Under severe restrictions. He can’t drink alcohol, own firearms, can’t have pornography, and can’t watch violent movies.  The judge intends to lift these restrictions and set Hinckley free in mid-June.

Hinckley writes songs and sings them on YouTube.  That appears to be his future.  But in a nation where guns and human weaknesses mix to produce 520 mass shootings a year, there is no escape from gun madness.  Until we get rid of guns.







Howard Bloom has been called the Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV.  One of his seven books–Global Brain—was the subject of a symposium thrown by the Office of the Secretary of Defense including representatives from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT.  His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Psychology Today, and the Scientific American.  He does news commentary at 1:06 am et every Wednesday night on 545 radio stations on Coast to Coast AM.  For more, see http://howardbloom.institute.

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