John Allen Muhammed bought the rifle that was found in his truck, and which has been ballistically linked to the DC-area sniper shootings, new, from a gun store, in his own name. Had we been collecting test-fire shell casings, we might have had his name and driver’s license photo (available for law enforcement purposes from most state motor vehicle registries) ten days ago. That might have saved some lives.


A reader asserts that no shell casings were recovered from any of the sniper crime scenes, which if true would make hash of the assertion above. Can anyone confirm or refute this?

[UPDATE SQUARED]: Another reader, who is in a position to know, reports that a cartridge casing was left behind at one of the crime scenes. I have asked for a citable source on this.


Another reader points out that Muhammed couldn’t have purchased the gun legally, since he was the subject of a domestic-violence restraining order. Two possibilities spring to mind: either he bought the gun before the order issued (in which case the purchase would have been legal though his subsequent possession of the weapon wasn’t; apparently he was arrested on federal firearms charges), or the restraining order didn’t show up on the background check: unlike criminal histories, restraining orders in most places aren’t kept in readily accessible electronic form.

If anyone knows, please share.


The gun was bought after the restraining order was issued, according to Friday’s New York Times. This must have been a case in which the restraining order didn’t show up on the background check.


Now it turns out that the gun store has no paperwork on a sale to Muhammed. An under-the-counter sale, perhaps? More here.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com