Life lessons on violence from Ronald Reagan

Patti Davis, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, is the author of eight books, including “The Long Goodbye,” a memoir about losing her father to Alzheimer’s.

“My father wanted us to know what bullets do to flesh.”

When I was a kid, my father used to interrupt my viewing of TV shows like “Gunsmoke” and “Wyatt Earp” to tell me what would really happen if a bullet hit that cowboy in the shoulder or the leg. As I watched the wounded man grip his shoulder, my father would make sure I knew that in real life, his shoulder would have been blown off. There were a few .22-caliber rifles at our ranch, and we went target shooting sometimes. It was another opportunity for teaching. My father never hunted — it wouldn’t have occurred to him. But he wanted us to know what bullets can do to flesh. Neither my brother nor I have ever owned a gun.

He couldn’t prepare us, though, for the cold March day in 1981 when John Hinckley tried to kill him. If Hinckley had used an automatic weapon, everyone there would probably have died.

In March of 1991, my father gave his support to the Brady Bill. He realized, finally and sadly, that America was way too in love with guns.