IF THERE IS anything to celebrate about the passing of one year since the last shooting of an American president and--in this case--three other men with him at the time, it is that all are alive. Beyond that, as Nancy Reagan poignantly admitted in a television interview, part of which appears in For the Record on this page today, the thoughts of that shooting and the fear that it might happen again are still "very fresh, very raw."
No, we will resist the opportunity to wonder, as many Americans do, why those wounded by gunfire can still be reluctant to support efforts to control the ease with which any felon, fugitive, drug addict or seriously disturbed person may purchase a handgun. For one thing, attempts on a president's life may be less likely to diminish merely because one weapon is withdrawn from the selection that a determined presidential assassin might have. As for the tens of thousands of other killings by handguns every year, it takes time for lawmakers to make the important distinction between the rifles of sport and the handguns of murder, and it will be more than a few presidents from now before the outlandish arsenal of handguns can be diminished substantially.
The fact is, the threat of death haunts every White House, and as it was with his predecessors, this danger has posed a difficult dilemma for President Reagan, who appreciates the democratic tradition of accessibility of public figures--but who has had to become more insulated since the shooting. It is unpleasant to think that the president is outfitted in a bulletproof vest on many occasions--but it is a sensible precaution.
In any event, Americans have endured too many tragedies too recently not to understand Mrs. Reagan's anxiety-and to hope that this first anniversary since an assassination attempt will be one in a long series observing bullet-free years for American presidents.