Remembering The Beltway Sniper

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.

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5 Replies to “Remembering The Beltway Sniper”

  1. Mad, mad world, RJ!
    They go potty over abortion rights, and the right to life, but don’t mind sending soldiers to kill civilians abroad when it suits them.

    They have a screaming hissy fit if anyone so much as mentions gun control, and stamp their feet about their flippin’ rights under the constitution – but what about the rights of women over their own bodies? That’s different….. of course, it would be wouldn’t it?

    The death penalty ought to have been left behind, part of the Dark Ages – but then it sometimes seems that that is where the USA – or I should say the GOP – has got itself stuck in a time warp .

    I’m in a bad mood today – can you tell?

  2. Bloody barbarians, when will America grow up?
    Like T above, I’m so sick of it all. I really am. It seems both puerile and alien from this distance (Canada)but makes me appreciate the rights I take for granted and the list is very long.
    As to capital punishment, it demeans all citizens.

  3. Iota – one blind spot of quite a few, I believe.

    Twilight – Goodness! I hope no-one’s within throwing distance of you. 😉

    I can only agree. This is a seriously backward and uncivilized country. It also happens to be the nation exerting the most power over the rest of the world right now, which could explain why we’re all sliding down a ravine towards oblivion on our backsides.
    It’s not just the GOP, you know. There’s also a few Democrats need locking away in a padded cell.

  4. What is scaring me the most is, this country is armed to the teeth with serious weapons of mass destruction! If one day some nutter (even nuttier the Bush) came to power, I dread to think what will happen in terms of “world peace”.

    I cannot understand the obsession with guns in any shape or form. But then again, I cannot understand the obsession with war, violence, racism, sexism, slavery, imperialism and many other crazy ideologies we have all seen and continue to see all through out human history!

    As for what twilight said…. I concur 100 percent…

    It is NOT alright to kill when a fetus is only a shrimp, but it is totally alright to kill when s/he is developed into a full grown human being???

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