I arrived in America on September 18th 2002. Two weeks later, on October 2nd, John Allen Muhammad – the Beltway Sniper, as he quickly became known – murdered his first Washington victim.
The following day, October 3rd, Muhammad’s killing spree peaked, with the shooting dead of five more innocent people. Over the next nineteen days seven more fell victim to this lethal psychopath, though three of them survived.
I remember wondering just what sort of country I had come to. For fifty years of life in Britain I’d never once paused to consider the possibility of being shot dead while filling up my car, walking the dog, or nipping down the road to pick up a newspaper. Suddenly, it seemed a real possibility, reinforced by weekly visits to a Walmart supermarket that openly displayed rifles and ammunition on sale.
Muhammad’s killing spree, along with his young accomplice, Malvo, continued until their arrest on October 24th. America breathed a sigh of relief it was all over. So far as I was concerned, it had only just begun.
Living in a country that allows anyone and everyone to own a firearm is disconcerting when one’s previous abode does not. There is probably a similar percentage of psychopathic maniacs in Britain as are at large in the United States, but virtually none of them have access to any weapon with the sheer killing power of the Bushmaster rifle chosen by John Allen Muhammad.
Today, seven years on, it’s John Allen Muhammad’s turn to be murdered. He is to be executed by the State of Virginia. I hope they’re proud to sink to his level.
As for me, I’ve lived through so many massacres and shootings since the days of the Beltway sniper, even documented some, and I still never fail to be horrified at how quickly Americans put it all behind them, and pretend it will never happen again.
Personally, I’d much rather John Allen Muhammad lived out his days in a prison cell, where he could mull over the heartache and mental agony he caused so many to suffer for the rest of their lives. It hardly seems right to deny him that.
Meanwhile, I no longer own a dog, or read newspapers, but I’ll still glance nervously over my shoulder every time I gas up the car.
Filed under: Sick people