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October 16, 2002

MORE REPORTS that the FBI is calling gun owners in the DC area. The behavior described here doesn't sound as objectionable as the threats and bluster in the report I linked to earlier, though I wouldn't surrender a gun to a law enforcement official who requested it for "testing" without a warrant. They often fail to return them, regardless of the circumstances, and getting anything done about it is very difficult.

At any rate, this all seems idiotic to me. If you contact someone and ask him a lot of "tough" questions or get his gun for "testing," then there are two possibilities: He's the sniper, or he's not. If he is the sniper, won't he bolt at the first contact? And he certainly won't surrender the murder weapon. If he's not the sniper, you're wasting time and resources, and irritating people unnecessarily, thus impeding the investigation. Am I missing something here? Because this seems like bureaucratic ass-covering designed to let someone say they've interviewed X number of people, rather than anything that might actually lead to the killer.

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Peterson is skeptical, too, adding:

Ditto on the assessment of law enforcement tactics in the sniper investigation. The announcement that military surveillance planes are being employed seems of a piece with this; if the paramount concern were apprehending the sniper instead of PR, you would 1) request the military's assistance without announcing this to the press; 2) nab the bad guy; and only then 3) thank the DOD, "whose technology proved crucial in apprehending the sniper," etc.

Doesn't the public announcement that the technology is in use raise the likelihood that the sniper will move his/their operation out of the DC vicinity or go dormant to evade capture and then strike again when public attention has turned elsewhere? A PR strategy increases the risk of further killing rather than decreasing it.

Yeah, if I were this guy I'd quit, take a couple of weeks off, and then start up somewhere else when people have started to relax. Of course, if I were this guy, I wouldn't be out there shooting people to begin with, so. . . .