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Harvard Educated Professor Kills Faculty Colleagues: Second Amendment of the Constitution traveled from Massachusetts to Alabama

By Kaufmann | February 13, 2010 10 Comments »

I defer to the news outlets to continue to cover yesterday afternoon killings of three faculty member at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, allegedly perpetrated by a Amy Bishop, a Harvard doctorate in neurobiology.  She is accused of opening fire during the biology department faculty meeting she was a member of, which discussed a prior decision to deny her of tenure at the University of Alabama.  In addition to those she shot dead, Amy Bishop also shot and injured three other faculty colleagues.  The focus in the media so far is on the shock of a Harvard super-educated scientist committing such an heinous act, and on the related perennial issue of fierce academic competition and tenure decisions, as in today’s article in the New York Times (here)

My guess is that soon to follow will be psychological profiles of her, and then various analyses of the possible links between decades-long of lofty and often lonely intellectual pursuits, on the one hand, and longstanding mental health challenges that may have gone undetected or unaddressed, on the other.  For now, some reports may superficially state that she ‘snapped’ during the Faculty meeting.  But the reporting so far misses another huge challenge altogether, totally absent in the reporting by the New York Times and other main outlets: Amy Bishop had walked into the Faculty meeting, and sat quietly for a long while during its proceedings, with a fully loaded gun.

It is as if such ease of access to guns, and ability to carry them undetected (or detected?), even by high powered scientist professors in university campus, is simply taken for granted nowadays in the U.S.  This is in sharp contrast to other industrialized (and many emerging) countries around the world today.

Of course, people kill other people.  But guns also do the killing, by being so effective in translating a fallible human intent into lethal outcome.  Even in the presence of an evil thought, or even intent, it is much more difficult to perpetrate the killing (and particularly multiple killings in a single incident) without easy access to a gun, and without freely moving around carrying a loaded weapon ready to kill at a snap.

Assume hypothetically that the same Amy Bishop, after obtaining her Harvard Ph. D., would have been offered a teaching position in a European university, which, say, years later, would have also have denied her academic tenure, following the same process and rationale as in the case of the University of Alabama (however unfair it may have been, or not).

Under such scenario, the probability of her having inflicted as much lethal damage over a whole academic department would have been much lower, mostly because it may have been so much more difficult to obtain and carry weapons with such ease.

Further, it may be the case that in another country (or University?) they would have also been effective in doing background checks at the time of giving her a job offer in the first place.  If that would have been done, perhaps a job offer may not have been denied, but certainly it would have warranted a special watch (and lifelong ban) for Amy Bishop to ever get close to a gun.

I say this because we are now finding out that in fact Professor Bishop had fatally shot her own brother in Massachusetts over two decades ago.  The killing of her brother long ago may have been regarded an ‘apparent accident’ (story here).  But, accident or not, it is very telling and significant that with such known antecedent in a police record she could so easily have had access to a gun — and carry it freely on campus in Alabama.  It emerges that guns may have been commonplace in her home as a youngster in Massachusetts as well.

However politically incorrect, this horrible incident is another illustration of the extent of the damage that continues to be inflicted on society by the anachronistic misunderstanding of the 220-year old Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ‘protecting the right to keep and bear arms’.  Amy Bishop was keeping and bearing arms decades ago in Massachusetts, and now in Alabama, inflicting mighty damage with a gun each time.

Unfortunately, in today’s political system where money in politics and vested financial interests by powerful minorities play such a prominent role (and where lobbying groups such as the NRA can wield such disproportionate power over lawmakers), the short term likelihood of the U.S. enacting gun ban laws that are aligned with modern societies is not high.  However, this ought not deter a continuation of a vigorous and frank debate on this thorny issue, and the rise of the voice by civil society applying counter pressure to reverse such misrule of law.

[ Postcript:  the post above was quickly written very shortly after the news on the killings broke out.  Subsequently I expanded on some of these issues, and an expanded piece appeared at Brookings as web-ed commentary, here.   Such opinion piece also includes a comparative statistical table (here) on gun ownership and gun homicides across a dozen countries, which suggest the extent of the pending challenge in the U.S. ]

Topics: capture, Regulation & Security, Rule of Law | | 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Harvard Educated Professor Kills Faculty Colleagues: Second Amendment of the Constitution traveled from Massachusetts to Alabama”

  1. “Workplace Shooting at University of Alabama” and related posts « Twitter Says:
    February 14th, 2010 at 9:44 am

    [...] Harvard Educated Professor Kills Faculty Colleagues: Second Amendment from Alabama and Massachusetts - The Kaufmann Governance Post See all 84 blogs. February 14th, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized [...]

  2. Sam Says:
    February 15th, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I find it interesting that the author is attacking guns instead of asking why the school hired someone with her past record. If instead of using a gun she had waited until the group left the building to run over them with her vehicle. Would the author be recommending we eliminate all vehicles since more people are killed on our highways in car accidents then with guns. I doubt it.

  3. D Says:
    February 16th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    The lady could have just as easily walked in there with a large kitchen knife in her pocket and killed people. We shouldn’t attack the laws of the land. What we should do is enforce penalties for people’s actions. In the long run, the people would probably be less apt to commit crimes. In todays judicial mire, no one is truly held accountable. Sure, they go to prison, but they are still alive, get phone calls, tv, beds, etc… But, the court will probably determine she is mentally challenged, crazy, insane, etc… Then it was not her fault..Right??! Then who’s fault is it? Maybe it is the highly touted educational system that engrained in her to achieve “greatness” no matter what is in your way. How dare them turn down tenure to a PhD.. Where did she gain her education… oh, Harvard you say? …

  4. Jim Wesberry Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 9:40 am

    The United States has a very difficult historical and constitutional problem with gun control. At the country’s founding privately owned guns were considered indispensable for both personal protection and readiness for militia participation in defense of the nation. Thus the 2nd Amendment was placed in the Bill of Rights, its location among the ten amendments indicating the importance founders placed upon it. Guns were also used by many to provide sustenance for their families so there was no opposition to the right to bear arms until more recent years.
    Now we are faced with two great problems: (1) modern rapid fire arms capable of massacring multitudes of persons in minutes, and (2) life’s complexity and pressures causing many persons to lose control of their temperaments and use guns in the process. From “road rage” shootings to student…and now even professorial vengeance murders, we are losing control of the means of protecting ourselves from ourselves.
    Here is the latest fiasco in point:
    “The federal government will lift long-standing restrictions on guns in national parks Monday, meaning that visitors with proper permits could pack heat along with camping and picnic gear to most of the 392 parks. The move concerns current and former employees of the National Park Service who are convinced that the move will damage the spirit of the nation’s park system.” (WaPo, 2/19/10).
    This really leaves me speechless, so I’ll say no more.

  5. Kaufmann Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks — comments appreciated, and so is the debate, which prompted me to continue on this in the next post entry, ‘Guns, uninterrupted’, here: http://thekaufmannpost.net/guns-uninterrupted/

  6. Get a clue Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 10:18 am

    “Assume hypothetically that the same Amy Bishop, after obtaining her Harvard Ph. D., would have been offered a teaching position in a European university… the probability of her having inflicted as much lethal damage over a whole academic department would have been much lower, mostly because it may have been so much more difficult to obtain and carry weapons with such ease.”

    Absolutely not – this is not the reality of our world. In that scenario, if she wanted to shoot someone, she would obtain a gun through non-legal means. The only difference would be an illegal seller profiting form the sale as opposed to a legal dealer. The gun is not the problem, the crazy bitch is the problem.

  7. Kaufmann Says:
    February 23rd, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    From today, Tuesday, February the 23rd, just a few illustrative, yet troubling gun items in the newswires now:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,587282,00.html

    http://www.ny1.com/9-staten-island-news-content/top_stories/114099/four-dead-in-apparent-murder-suicide/

    http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.10693/title.hot-boy-turks-younger-brother-murdered-family-needs-assistance

    http://www.essence.com/news/breaking_news/jayson_williams_given_to_5_years_for_fat.php

    http://www.wcpo.com/news/local/story/Trenton-Troubled-Over-Murder-Of-Mother/KXYHu9g5TE6v_Lzfq0GAXA.cspx

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/01/31/2010-01-31_teen_grazed_by_bullet_leads_cops_to_murdered_bronx_girl_cops_hunt_for_suspect.html

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/DA-considers-North-Beach-fatal-crash-case-84977997.html

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/02/20/2010-02-20_coming_soon_to_a_national_park_near_you_loaded_guns.html

  8. TINA Says:
    March 25th, 2010 at 5:25 am

    …Bottom line she has taken 4 lives…her brother’s and three colleagues. I vote for the death penalty and perhaps this will set an example for all professors across America who “think” they are above the law due to their educational status. Several have witness enough of this behavior with a “few” professors who has abused their status and exhibited unprofessional behavior when they don’t get what they “think” they deserve. …Just remember this…the four lives she has taken are not here to see their husbands, wives, and love ones.

  9. estetik Says:
    April 23rd, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    very good article.
    thank you for this post admin

  10. Richard Allen Pierce Says:
    May 31st, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    You still don’t get it. You still don’t understand the purpose of the Second Amendment. If you did then you would be calling for every American to be armed with every weapon that the average soldier is issued. Incidents such as this are unavoidable. You cannot legislate morality or someone going off their rocker. I am far more fearful of governments under the control of a Looney than I am of the rare citizen miss-using their firearms. You might want to check out the work of Professor Rummel with the University of Hawaii. See http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/GENOCIDE.ENCY.HTM. His findings show that governments between 1900 and 1999 have killed approximately 262,000,000 of their own citizens. Citizens that the government determined were not politically aligned with their ideology.

    It’s a duty of every citizen to protect him or her self. In this case there are a couple of points to make. First I believe you’ll find that Harvard is a gun free zone. Professor Bishop was not allowed to carry a firearm on campus to begin with. The law did not stop her so what makes you think that any other law would have prevented this? You might want to ask the question, why is it that this type of shooting only occurs in gun free zones? If she knew that the other professors had arms and knew how to use them, do you think she would have tried what she did? Second, where the police? Didn’t someone call 911? This shows that only you are responsible for your own safety. The Police are great after a crime is committed, but in most cases they cannot prevent crime.

    I see someone posted a bunch of crimes or accidents by firearms. Why not also post some of the 2.5 million defensive uses of guns each year? See http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/stats.html http://www.thearmedcitizen.com/

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