[This video originally appeared on Huffington Post]
Episode 1 – The Prototype 1963
The first episode dissects a shooting that managed to be both the crime of the century and a typical act of gun violence. It tracks both the wanderings and escalating violence of a man who went my the alias Alek Hidell, and the political calculations that led to this very dysfunctional man having very functional – and cheap – weapons.
Hidell was a man of reinventions – changing occupations, homes, and identities at will – become more lethal at each iteration. He attempted to assassinate a right wing agitator and future Presidential named Major General Edwin Walker, but failed then practiced. He plotted the death of then former Vice President Richard Nixon, but abandoned the plot. He traveled and regrouped.
The rifle that Hidell used – the Mannlicher Carcano – was also well traveled. It began as a NATO rifle, but insufficient in the waging of the escalating Cold War. Hundreds of thousands of the rifle were deemed obsolete – though fully functional – then sold to American gun dealers for pennies on the dollar. Hidell bought his for 19.95 (including the scope).
By November of 1963, he had come into his own. He returned to his home town and using his real name – Lee Harvey Oswald – he began work at book depository building in Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The rest is history, but that history is often viewed in exceptional terms – grand conspiracies the like – but for the purposes of this series what is most compelling is just how typical the crime, the criminal and the government’s response were.
After debate, investigations, inquiries and lobbying the impact of the murder of President Kennedy on gun policy was minimal. Guns could no longer be bought by mail – and it took another five years to get that change made.