TIME Crime

Anatomy of an Assassination Attempt

One deranged drifter almost took down the most powerful man in the world

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In 1.7 seconds, John Hinckley Jr. could have altered the course of history. But thanks to a Secret Service agent, a D.C. cop, and the White House Press Secretary—the late James Brady, who died Monday—President Ronald Reagan made it home from the Washington Hinton Hotel alive.

The ripples of that March morning can still be felt years later in the Brady Bill and calls for expansions on the background checks and waiting period to buy guns that the bill enacted. But on March 30, 1981, it all came down to six shots, three heroes, and the one man who could have changed everything.

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