John Hinckley, who shot and wounded US president Ronald Reagan in 1981, has been freed from court oversight, officially concluding decades of supervision by legal and mental health professionals.
“After 41 years 2 months and 15 days, FREEDOM AT LAST!!!,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after noon on Wednesday.
The lifting of all restrictions had been expected since late September. US district court judge Paul L Friedman in Washington had said he would free Hinckley on 15 June if he continued to remain mentally stable in the community in Virginia where he has lived since 2016.
Hinckley, who was acquitted of trying to kill the then US president by reason of insanity, spent the decades before that in a Washington mental hospital.
Hinckley has gained nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter and YouTube in recent months as the judge loosened Hinckley’s restrictions before fully lifting all of them.
But the greying 67-year-old is far from being the household name that he became after shooting and wounding the 40th US president and several others outside a Washington hotel. Today, historians say Hinckley is at best a question on a quiz show and someone who unintentionally helped build the Reagan legend and inspire a push for stricter gun control.
“If Hinckley had succeeded in killing Reagan, then he would have been a pivotal historical figure,” HW Brands, a historian, and Reagan biographer wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “As it is, he is a misguided soul whom history has already forgotten.”
Barbara A Perry, a professor and director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said that Hinckley “would be maybe a Jeopardy question”. But his impact remains tangible in Reagan’s legacy.
“For the president himself to have been so seriously wounded, and to come back from that that actually made Ronald Reagan the legend that he became … like the movie hero that he was,” Perry said.
Reagan showed grace and humor in the face of death, Perry said. After being shot, the president told emergency room doctors that he hoped they were all Republicans. He later joked to his wife Nancy that he was sorry he “forgot to duck”.
When the president first spoke to Congress after the shooting, he looked “just a little bit thinner, but he’s still the robust cowboy that is Ronald Reagan”, Perry said.
The assassination attempt paralyzed Reagan press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014.
In 1993, president Bill Clinton signed into law the Brady bill, which required a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases and background checks of prospective buyers. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence are named after Brady and his wife Sarah.
The shooting also injured Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty.
Hinckley was 25 and suffering from acute psychosis at the time of the attack. When jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity, they said he needed treatment and not a lifetime in confinement. He was ordered to live at St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington.
In the 2000s, Hinckley began making visits to his parent’s home in a gated community in Williamsburg. A 2016 court order granted him permission to live with his mother full time, albeit under various restrictions after experts said his mental illness had been in remission for decades.
Hinckley’s mother died in July. He signed a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in the area last year and began living there with his cat, Theo, according to court filings.
Over the years, the court restricted Hinckley from owning a gun or using drugs or alcohol. He also couldn’t contact the actor Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed at the time of the shooting, or any of his victims or their families.