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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 10:54 GMT
Washington sniper charges: Your reaction
Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad
Prosecutors in the US state of Maryland have filed murder charges against the two Washington sniper suspects.

Gulf war veteran John Allen Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, John Lee Malvo, have been charged with six murders apiece and officials say they intend to seek the death penalty.

Jamaican citizen Malvo has been described as Muhammad's step-son and the two were captured at a Maryland rest stop early on Thursday morning when police found them asleep in their car.

The shootings over a three-week period left 10 people dead and three injured since they began on 2 October.

How do you feel about the charges? If you live in the area, do you feel safer? How have the sniper attacks changed your way of life?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I am certainly relieved that this particular maniac has been stopped. My husband works in Rockville, and we spend much of our time in Montgomery County. I feel much better about him leaving for work and me taking the children shopping. My concern now lies with the seeming rush to execute both of these "men". Although I oppose capital punishment in all cases, it seems to me that a 17-year-old boy following the orders of his pathological father-figure is less than fully responsible for his actions.
Lisa, Frederick, MD, US

What about all the other deaths, many of which will involve guns?

Paul Mosley, Chesterfield, England
Isn't this all a bit hypocritical? The annual murder rate in Washington is well over 150. A serial killer is caught, eventually, and everybody is safe. I don't think so. What about all the other deaths, many of which will involve guns?
Paul Mosley, Chesterfield, England

A shame that good police work has to be sullied by the unedifying spectacle of lawyers competing for jurisdiction on the basis of who can guarantee the quickest conviction and execution.
Guy Liddell, Halifax, UK

John Allen had his grudge against the system. He had no right to take it out of other people, Mr Bush should focus on internal problems of his own country.
Khalid Rahim, Toronto, Canada

In Switzerland we all have a fully automatic state of the art machine gun under our beds. Yet we have been extensively trained with them. If a burglar breaks into our house we call the police. We know that if we pull our gun out it merely makes us a target. Things can go wrong very quickly, even for the highly trained. I think a change of mentality about self defence and guns is called for. Legislation alone will not work.
Colin, Geneva, Switzerland

My thoughts go to every family member of those killed by this vicious, heartless, thoughtless killer
Lisa Nicol, Scotland, UK

Was the 17 year old boy brainwashed to take part?

Alaa, Ottawa, Canada
Before they decide for a death penalty or do anything, I want it clear why they did this, what was their motive? Was the 17 year old boy brainwashed to take part? Fairness to the child has to be investigated!
Alaa, Ottawa, Canada

If the killers have been apprehended, why haven't they been charged with the crime? It seems as though the police are fishing, hoping to get lucky and maybe they will. But what if they don't? The public is thirsty for blood and are ready to point the finger at anyone without even considering the possibility that the suspects may be innocent.
Larisa, Toronto, Canada

I live in the city, work in the city and play in the city. Most of my friends live in the city, too. We certainly weren't happy about the sniper and are glad he has been caught, but we weren't spending every waking hour quaking in our boots or snivelling either. It was a bad situation that we all dealt with and now it's over.
Conrad Hasenfuss, Washington, DC

My heart and my prayers goes to all the victims families, may God give them strength and wisdom.
Siraj Salih, charlotte, nc

I am so pleased to see that the human population still believes in innocent until proven guilty! The alleged snipers have not been tried and found guilty yet. It is terrible to see that the US government are seeking the death penalty for these two alleged killers. When will they learn that it's obvious that the death penalty isn't a deterrent and is not a humane punishment.
Catherine, UK

I am amazed that everybody in the US is talking punishment. Surely there needs to be a trial first and due evidence heard and a jury decision with guilt established before we talk punishment?
John Murray, Taiwan

How will we be any better if we take their lives?

Shannon, Baltimore, MD USA
For the families of the victims and all those affected by these attacks, I am very grateful to see the police have charged the suspects. However, I am not so sure how I feel about what to do next. Sure we all want justice. Reuters brought up an interesting point regarding different states having different laws on the death penalty. I will be very disappointed in the US justice system to see this case transferred to Alabama simply because they do not have a moratorium on the death penalty and Maryland does. How will we be any better than them if we take their lives?
Shannon, Baltimore, MD USA

I feel no safer than I did, nor do I feel unsafe. That's because I legally own a gun and know how to use it. Sure beats relying on the police.
Dan, Chicago, USA

People will forget all about this in two months. Last year no one would get on a plane. Six months ago no-one wanted to go to the mailbox or open their mail. Now people are scared to get gas. I was never scared because I live in one of the most targeted cities in the world for random terrorism and that is my choice. Everyone who was zigzagging through the parking lot should leave because this is not the place for you. Next year it will be something else!
Monica Reid, Silver Sprind, MD, USA

My life will never be the same

Nan, Silver Spring, MD USA
Here in the middle of the Montgomery County crime scene, I am grateful that the killers have been apprehended and I'm proud of Chief Moose's professionalism in dealing with the press. My life will never be the same.
Nan, Silver Spring, MD USA

What happened to being presumed innocent until proven guilty?? Last I heard he has not been charged or convicted??
Dr Serhat Khan, Sheboygan, WI, USA

ASSUMING he is the man responsible, isn't it interesting he is a Gulf War veteran??
Anon, UK

Along with a huge sense of relief for the citizens of Maryland, I can't help but think it won't be long before another wacko emerges from the woodwork.
Simon Morgan, England

Timothy McVeigh was a Christian and that was never mentioned

NAJI, Winona, MN
I just love the part where the media says over and over that the sniper has converted to Islam; that's not fair to Muslims, because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian and that was never mentioned.
NAJI, Winona, MN

My name is Mohammad too and this... I don't have words for him. I also think the media should tell more that he was not a Muslim but a follower of Nation of Islam, which is not Islam.
Mohammad, Los Angeles, US

This crime is an anomaly. I feel much safer in America than I do in England. Street crime is far less prevalent here. The north-east has stringent gun control. Here in NJ, I had to wait 30 days for a firearms ID card and another 60 days for a handgun permit. When is Britain going to wake up to the fact that criminals will always find a way to get guns and its only the general public who are prevented from defending themselves?
David Mann, Jersey City, NJ / Torpoint, UK

Maryland has over 300 gun laws, and has some of the toughest laws in the country, yet Baltimore is considered the "murder capital" of the US. It proves gun laws don't work. What would work would be if everyone HAD to pack a gun. Everybody would be real polite I bet.
Yolanda, Maryland, USA

I'm worried that this will lead to a backlash against Muslims and/or blacks in the US. I hope people remember that Timothy McVeigh was a white Christian, and keep things in perspective.
Matthew, Northampton, Mass., USA

A sense of relief has sunk among the community

Sonya, Maryland
Safe? Not quite, but certainly a sense of relief has sunk among the community. It all seemed to happen so fast though that I'm sure over the next few days more stories will unfold in relation to the two suspects. Everyone is hopeful that this is the end of the terrible attacks but I think this will make people more alert in general and perhaps change their perspective on what kind of place we live in.
Sonya, Maryland, USA

In respect to gun ownership, as Eddie Izzard once said: "People say that guns don't kill people, people kill people... but guns make it an awful lot easier."
Jasper, UK

Well, it is very appreciable that law enforcement agencies have caught the sniper, but, If America wants to root out such kind of events, then she should change her policies, otherwise it is not success , there will be more Osamas, Saddams and snipers.
Abdul Wadood Zakhpail, Loralai, Pakistan

I believe this guy was a nut doing it for kicks and as a result it's unlikely he had any political or terrorist agenda. However, when comments are made by the likes of Imad and Abdul that American foreign policy was to blame, is it any surprise that the Muslim community will, sadly be subjected to a backlash?
Neill Courtney, USA ex UK

Thank God! Now the justice system needs to ensure anyone else thinking along the same lines is deterred!
Eileen, UK

Let's hope we learn what could have possibly motivated such an attack

David Parker, Seattle, USA
All of the agencies involved in solving this case deserve high praise. Dealing with such an opportunistic killer, with little credible witness evidence to go by must have been an enormous task. Especially given the media spotlight and the political pressure to resolve the case quickly. Let's hope that justice is served, but also that we learn what could have possibly motivated such an attack.
David Parker, Seattle, USA

Gun laws in Maryland and DC are probably a red herring. If these are the snipers then they most likely brought their rifle in Washington state, where Muhammad was believed to have lived at one time. People should also realise that the same thing could happen in the UK. Powerful rifles are legally available here, and in the wrong hands could kill just as many innocents.
John Franklin, London, UK

The media coverage of the events of the past few weeks has been deplorable. In addition to creating a national hysteria, they treated us to an endless parade of "experts" most of whose predictions turned out to be completely wrong. It is time for some serious reflection on behalf of these "news" organisations. Perhaps, if they have nothing constructive to say, they should keep quiet.
Josh, Washington, DC

This has set a precedent for anyone who wants to spread terror across entire cities. All it would take is a few copycats in multiple cities to make this sniper look like child¿s play.
Peter Finch, England

Yes, the copycat situation is a legitimate issue. However if the US judicial system does what it is supposed to do he will be taken care of properly and set an example of to discourage future threats. We can only hope that humanity is going in a different direction and weed out the weak. The US should be more concerned about its foreign relations right now, or should I say lack of relations?
Rick, Denver, CO. USA

We now have to live in constant fear

Hayat Rehman, Chicago, USA
I had been very anxiously awaiting the arrest of the sniper suspect, hoping against hope that he was not a Muslim, like myself. Unfortunately, he apparently is. Now Muslim-bashing will reach a new level in the US where once only 'Arab-looking' individuals were harassed, now converts and black Muslims will feel this hatred as well. Even if he is not the one responsible for the shootings, the damage will be done. We now have to live in constant fear.
Hayat Rehman, Chicago, USA

Rather than focus on what the alleged sniper did, we need to try to focus on why he did what he did. Could it be the American policies that have driven him to madness, could it be the American arrogance that has driven him to the point where he had no control? Whatever the cause, we can be assured that there's some American policy behind it.
Imad Lodhi, Canada

To Imad, Does it really matter why he did what he did? Those people he killed had nothing to do with the government. Their families deserve our sympathy and respect. We shouldn't satisfy this killer by providing him with a platform by which to express his views. Since when does a murderer's rights come before the victims?
Kt, Washington DC

Imad Lodhi's comments are staggering! American foreign policy is responsible for this sniper? Where do these people come from and what drugs are they taking? No-one is driven to murder 10 people and main three others by foreign policy. Criminal, insane or just plain evil perhaps, but this sniper's murderous activities are not political comment! Get a grip, people!
Patrick, Harrogate, UK

Congratulations to the police for solving this situation. Banning firearms will not help situations like this, but fingerprinting guns will. I fear that a ban would only pave the way for more incidents like this. Private ownership of guns actually deters a lot more incidents than it creates.
David F. Black Sr., Kennesaw, Ga. USA

I live in the DC area and have heard from relatives throughout the country. It sure became personal when they targeted children. All of my relatives want swift justice for these losers. They crossed the line in the nation's psyche.
Jo, Washington, D.C., USA

I don't have to run from the car to the grocery store any more

David, Maryland
I feel better he's caught because five of the killings were within two miles of my fiancé's work. I don't have to run from the car to the grocery store any more. However, the huge media attention created a lot of debate that I am uncomfortable about. Another nutter with guns and sniper books was initially a suspect after he was shot by his wife, but eventually released. How many people like that are out there? Some of the hatred at the law enforcement agencies came out on radio phone ins especially after 35-mile traffic jams developed when highways were shut down after the last attack this week. A teenage gang battle that led to a mother and four children being burnt alive in a house 40 miles away in Baltimore, was relegated to secondary news as it wasn't as "interesting" as the sniper story. There is so much wealth in this area but also so much hatred, jealousy and violence.
David, Rockville, Maryland

Do I feel safer now that the sniper is caught? Yes, I do. But I also understand what so many people all over the world live with day in and day out. But thank God the fear we lived in is over; no one deserves to suffer such a horrible death at the hands of an insane, gun-happy maniac.
Nada, Washington DC, USA

If these two are the snipers, it is a relief to have them off the street. On the other hand, I was listening to the news and a gentleman made a comment about these acts of violence not being the profile of an African-American. I suppose he meant the way each killing or shooting was done. A killer is a killer. It doesn't matter the colour of the skin.
Rosalind, Red Oak, Texas

We need to be realistic and go on with our lives

Janice Glazier, USA
Terror has been happening in other countries such as Ireland for years. This is so new in the US that the press and people react accordingly. We need to be realistic and go on with our lives and do what we need to do to stop the insanity. With the overwhelming availability of drugs and cult figures I believe unfortunately the terror will continue.
Janice Glazier, Fort Littleton, Dublin Co.

I live about 15 minutes from the rest stop where the suspects were arrested. The reports seem to indicate so far that everything fits, that these are the men responsible, and that's a great relief to all of us. It's a little unsettling, frankly, that they were discovered here - nobody really expected them to come this far west. This part of Maryland is pretty rural and quiet. In fact, I came back here from Chicago four years ago for that very reason. Whether this string of violence is reason to revisit American gun laws I can't say; I don't own a firearm and likely never will. But I do know that many of the gun control laws already on the books are not strongly enforced. Dealing with THAT issue is the most logical first step in preventing this kind of thing from happening again.
Tammy, Hagerstown, MD, USA

Yes I feel safer. Law enforcement handled this professionally and should be given much thanks.
Jeremy Trumble, Hagerstown, Maryland USA

I am so glad the sniper is caught. I think the police department; FBI and ATF did an excellent job. Now I hope that the police releases the correct information regards to the sniper, why this person was doing such a criminal act.
Belquis Habib, Washington DC

It is a day of celebration

Peter Morris, VA, USA
We are all tremendously relieved. This was close to our home, and our children were traumatised. It is a day of celebration.
Peter Morris, Falls Church, VA USA

Tougher gun laws will probably not stop someone like the sniper. But most gun crimes (and gun suicides, of which there are many) are not carefully orchestrated events, but rather happen in a moment of passion when a gun happens to be available. For those types of crimes, tougher gun laws would make a big difference.
Chris, Los Angeles, USA

I just hope that the people arrested are really involved and this is not another false alarm.
Rohini, USA

As usual, the liberals are out in full force with irrational and incomplete facts. This was a random act by two individuals. Stricter gun laws will not account for the thousands upon thousands of un-registered, illegal weapons in this country. The opportunity and weapon will always be there to commit this type of crime no matter what type of laws are put in place. Government regulation cannot and will not solve this problem. It is too late. It's not a solution but it's the facts.
Jeff, USA

Our security system needs overhauling.

Sabit Alley, New Jersey
Until it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the people caught are the real snipers and until there are no more killings, the people living in the area will never feel safe. I think that this sniper episode has demonstrated quite clearly the weaknesses within the US security apparatus. The fact it has taken ten people to die before the sniper(s) could be apprehended means that our security system needs overhauling. It also calls, in my view, for tougher gun laws, in fact may be total banning of ownership of guns by citizens. Who knows where the next sniper could spring up from?
Sabit Alley, North Brunswick, NJ, USA

It is not so easy to purchase a firearm in Maryland. To purchase a handgun you must fill out a paper for a background check. You must wait for seven days for the results before you can take possession of it and you must be a resident of the state to by one. To purchase an assault weapon you must go through the same procedures as for a handgun. All weapons sold in Maryland must be registered with the federal government. Also you must complete a firearms safety course or you may not purchase any weapon. As you can see, Maryland does not need more gun laws. I think people over-reacted and the only people who will benefit from this tragedy will be the politicians.
Danny, Jefferson, Frederick Co. Maryland

We live in a violent country. Nothing illustrates that more than the ability to buy at practically any gun shop a "civilian version" of a semi-automatic rifle that was designed for the military. Ironically enough used by an ex-soldier to murder innocent civilians.
Linda, Washington, DC

We must wait for irrefutable evidence before we assume the police have the snipers in custody. It wouldn't be the first time the law has made a mistake and arrested the wrong persons. There are many who have been freed after spending years in jail and been subsequently cleared by DNA evidence. So, let caution prevail and justice be served.
Patricia Martchenko, Toronto Canada

This sniper has given every nutcase a blueprint

Chris, Washington
I live in the area and feel no safer. Not because I think they have the wrong suspects, but because the sniper threat didn't appreciably add to the existing risks. A one-in-a-million chance of death or injury doesn't worry me - even if I face it every day. What is worrying is the copycat factor. This sniper has given every nutcase and would-be terrorist a blueprint for how to sow fear and apprehension. Coming to a city near you, unfortunately.
Chris, Washington, DC

The sniper tragedy should be a call-to-arms for establishing new anti-gun laws in the US. Unfortunately, a President from Texas isn't about to take on the NRA.
Chris, Washington, DC, USA

Weapons should be registered and traceable

George, Alexandria
Now that the sniper appears to have been caught, we must examine how our laws should be changed to make it easier to trace the munitions back to the gun owner. I do not quarrel with the right of individuals to keep guns for self-defence, but their weapons should be registered and traceable back to them just like an automobile.
George, Alexandria, VA, USA

Excellent police work on a very difficult case. Captain Moose deserves our thanks and a good night sleep.
Kenneth Geller, Applton, WI USA

True, we can't be sure we have the right guys until we analyse the ballistics evidence, but so far everything seems to be making sense. These guys are sleeping at a rest stop with a rifle, a scope, and a tripod in the car. Also there was a hole drilled in the trunk, allowing them to fire the weapon from inside the vehicle. KUDOS to law enforcement. I thought this killer may take off into the sunset
Beth, Denver, CO, USA

The Washington sniper has not changed my life at all. I am not a fatalist but I refuse to be intimidated. Now that the sniper has been (allegedly) caught I can only hope that there are no copy-cats and that no terrorist group, drawing lessons from the successful terrorisation of a major US metropolitan area by a single man with rifle - starts to conduct similar operations on the cheap.
Mirek Kondracki, Alexandria, USA

If they are responsible, that must be proven in the courts, not the media

Matthew, Boston
We should not jump to any conclusions. It is the job of the police to investigate and the courts to decide on these men. They are innocent until proven guilty, and we should not immediately condemn these men without a trial. If they are responsible, that must be proven in the courts, not the media's search for headlines and ratings. We still try to have justice in this nation.
Matthew, Boston, USA

I think five million people just breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Joe, Arlington, VA USA

I am concerned that we will be too quick to believe that the suspects have been caught. I am hoping that the police are carefully assessing the situation.
Kathy Franklin, San Antonio, USA

The sniper case shows that the strict gun laws in DC and Maryland won't stop criminals from owning guns.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

Re: Shawn, Washington. If anything, this case demonstrates to me the need for stricter gun enforcement. You make it sound as if the "strict" gun laws in DC and Maryland aren't working. They are not that strict compared to other states and other countries.
James, Washington, D.C.

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Trail of terror
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See also:

26 Oct 02 | Americas
24 Oct 02 | Americas
10 Oct 02 | Americas
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