Death to Murderous Snipers


"I'm beginning to rethink my opposition to the death penalty," said an associate from the very left-leaning Center for the New American Dream (CNAD). This comment came before a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Baltimore in the middle of October, just after Philadelphia businessman Kenneth Bridges became the beltway sniper's tenth victim.

The question of what is a fitting punishment for the murders committed by the alleged snipers, John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, now comes to the fore. Since the shooting spree spread through Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia, all of those jurisdictions have the right to try them. Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of executions since 1976, while Maryland's governor has declared a moratorium on the death penalty. District of Columbia residents voted two to one against the death penalty in a referendum in 1992.

If the CNAD associate does change his mind, he will be siding with the majority of Americans whose support for the death penalty for murder has not wavered for decades, consistently running between 65 percent and 80 percent. A recent Gallup poll showed 72 percent in favor of the death penalty for murderers.

The American public's support for the death is regularly portrayed by European elites as further evidence for our "uncivilized" culture. Ordinary European citizens disagree; a majority favor the death penalty

Given the final nature of the death penalty, our justice system must make every effort to be absolutely sure that they've got the right guys. Moratoria on imposing the death penalty is reasonable in some states like Illinois, where the criminal justice system has been shown to be spectacularly defective. However, once it is certain who the murderers in a case are, the majority of Americans are right to support the death penalty. Murderers are executed not just to deter them (which the death penalty absolutely does) but also to satisfy a deep-seated and morally justified sense of vengeance. Murder is such a horrifying violation of decency that the most fitting punishment is to be completely cut out of the life of the community. Which is to say, I hope that the snipers are tried in Virginia.