13th 2010
Murder in UA-Huntsville faculty meeting

Posted under: American history, Gender, jobs, unhappy endings, women's history


Many of you have probably heard the news of the workplace murders in a Biology Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama-Huntsville yesterday.  The murderer is allegedly Assistant Professor Amy Bishop, who was recently denied tenure.  All of the media reports I’ve seen presume that the tenure denial was the motive for the shooting.  Interestingly, the AP story and the MSNBC story I’ve seen finally discuss the role that gender plays in workplace or other mass shootings:  they both note (finally!) that men are the overwhelming majority of mass murderers and the overwhelming majority of people who kill with guns.

The dead are Gopi K. Podila, who was the department Chair, and two other faculty members, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson.  Three other victims are alive and hospitalized, but two are critically injured:  faculty member Luis Cruz-Vera is listed in fair condition, but Joseph Leahy and staff member Stephanie Monticello are in critical condition and in intensive care. 

The lock-and-load on campus crowd is already maneuvering to make hay out of this tragedy.  From the MSNBC story

Gina Hammond, a UAH student, told WAFF that she lobbied the University of Alabama trustees to allow students with gun permits to carry their weapons on campus. She was turned down.“I’m scared to go back to school,” Hammond said. “However, if they were to allow me to carry my pistol on campus, I would not be as scared.

“… I’m sorry that nobody in that room had a pistol to save at least one person’s life,” Hammond said.

Narrative lines like this are like the ideological insistence that “Communism didn’t fail–it’s just never been really attempted,” or “Conservatism didn’t fail–George W. Bush wasn’t a true conservative.”  Unless the pro-gun crowd wants to make concealed-carry weapons not just permissible, but mandatory on campuses, more guns will not mean the ability to stop mass murders.  The vast majority of faculty, staff, and students on university campuses have neither the interest nor the inclination to arm themselves up.  Because there will never, ever be enough guns on campus to stop murderous rampages, the pro-gun lobby will always be able to insist that more guns is the answer.  Instead of one or two guns too many, the problem will always be an absence of guns.  Awesome!

Once again, I wonder:  where can I get a high-fashion Kevlar vest?

I hope all of you are safe this morning.  Please leave your thoughts and other links to news updates in the comments.

UPDATE, 12:05 p.m. MST:  Commenter Lucky Jane sent along a link to a Boston Globe story that reports that Amy Bishop accidentally shot killed her 18-year old brother in 1986.  Exactly how many mulligans do American murderers get before the state decides they shouldn’t own guns?  How many more people would she have had to kill before her Second Amendment rights were abrogated?

UPDATE PART 2, 2:30 MST:  From the Boston Globe, an updated version of the linked story above:

The Boston Globe reported at the time that Amy Bishop had accidentally shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth M. Bishop, an accomplished violinist who had won a number of science awards, in Braintree.

Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier confirmed today at a news conference that Amy Bishop had fatally shot her brother. But Frazier offered a different account of the shooting, saying Bishop had shot her brother during an argument and was being booked by police when the police chief at the time ordered the booking process stopped and Bishop released to her mother.

Frazier said he was basing his statements on the memories of one of his officers who was on the department at the time and had arrested Bishop. He said the records from the case have been missing since at least 1988.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘coverup’ … but this does not look good,” he said.

.       .       .       .      

Frazier said the media had been fed an incorrect story [about the 1986 shooting]. He said that there was an argument at the home on Hollis Avenue and Amy Bishop had fired three shots, then fled the house and pointed the shotgun at a motorist in an attempted carjack. She was then arrested at gunpoint by officers.

I thought graduate schools and universities did background checks on potential students and/or employees?  Hey–what about background checks for firearms owners???


66 Responses to “Murder in UA-Huntsville faculty meeting”

  1. Indyanna on 13 Feb 2010 at 9:34 am #

    Yeah, as Elizabeth Drinker once somewhat archly said of Mary Wollstonecraft (paraphrase here) “in many ways, [Gina] speaks my very mind…” If something like this happened during a meeting in my department I would definitely want our Early Modern South-Central Asianist crouched behind the $700 “Smart Board” we bought last year, steadying hir hand that held the Glock on the Teaching Station they recently installed, blazing away at the irksome colleague who had “just gone too far this time, dammit.” And if the situation was *this* intramural, ze would immediately have to calculate in terms of departmental alliance constellations, because the people who had voted for the outcast might also be packing. So it would quickly descend into the “shootout in the broom closet at the O.K. Corral.” I would “not be as scared” under those circumstances either, Gina.

    Amazingly, the dean of the College of Sciences at UA-H, not apparently involved yesterday but presumably in some way at least proximate to the mayhem, was during an earlier job a member of a department where there was an even more horrendous mass campus shooting about 18 years ago. Impossible to imagine going through that kind of a thing once in your life, much less twice. This much madness is too much sorrow, as Neil Young wrote years ago in a {sick} song that was also about gender-on-gender shooting.

  2. Lucky Jane on 13 Feb 2010 at 9:54 am #

    On the other side, we have those calling for further restrictions on guns—as if such would have prevented Bishop from acquiring a gun or made a bit of difference.

    And can I say I hate the way this case is being reported in some of the mainstream media, e.g., the Associated Press? I understand the desperate need for information—the need to explain away such a monstrous person, so that we might be assured that it won’t happen to “us”—but such reporting is little better than relying on Rate My Professor, except with the raters identified. So she’s “weird” and a “nerd.” (Don’t get me wrong: I take my students and colleagues damn seriously.) Which of us haven’t been described by our students as such? The quotation from Hammond about her fear and sorrow “that no one had a pistol” is just of a piece with the random opinion that get legitimized by whatever narrative a reporter needs to construct.

  3. Anastasia on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:09 am #

    I had the same reaction to “weird” and “nerd”. Who among us indeed. I also read a piece that was literally quoting from ratemyprofessors. To be perfectly honest, quoting a colleague saying Bishop couldn’t deal with reality and wasn’t as good as she thought she was isn’t the most helpful either.

  4. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Lucky Jane & Anastasia–I saw the same complaints about Bishop from students and from one of her victims. I’m sure RMP and/or some colleagues say the same about me, and probably worse. Even if the comments were totally warranted, she’s really outdone herself by committing mass murder at work!

    Whatever their merits, the biggest problem at UA-H yesterday is the fact that she was armed with a gun. That’s the ultimate reason she was successful in her deadly rampage.

  5. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Also–what’s with the tic of calling the murderer “Harvard educated?” (I just heard a reporter on CNN use that descriptor again.) As if “Harvard-educated” people are automatically above suspicion by virtue of their educations?

    Apparently, the weapon was a 9mm, only found at 9 p. last night.

  6. Gavin on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:39 am #

    “Because there will never, ever be enough guns on campus to stop murderous rampages, the pro-gun lobby will always be able to insist that more guns is the answer.”

    One person with a gun is not an effective counter to another person with a gun, but neither is everyone having a gun. The advantages that the police and army have over lone people with guns are not just numbers: they also have tactics, training, experience, control and communication systems, logistical support. Getting bullets to the right place at the right time is a difficult and complicated operation which involves a lot more than just the person firing the gun. People with guns who mean well but who don’t know what they’re doing and have no organization are likely to do more harm than good. Even if all students and staff wanted to be armed, achieving the necessary level of competence would take a huge investment of time and effort.

    But movies and computer games keep telling us that an ordinary guy (and it is usually a male) with a gun can save the world.

  7. notorious Ph.D. on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:41 am #

    I read about this this morning, and wondered about the tenure angle. But I missed the bit about, “Boy, I wish someone else in that meeting had been packing.” Really? Our students wish their professors had guns? Because this might solve my little texting-in-class problem…

    (Apologies: I do recognize this is a serious situation. Dark humor is my favorite coping mechanism. I’m an Irish girl, after all.)

  8. Matt L on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:42 am #

    I heard about the story this morning when I got a call from my mom who was/is concerned about this story and my own tenure application. I assured her that I was anxious to learn if I earned tenure, but pretty sure I would have a happy and fulfilling life if it didn’t happen. I mean, being a tenured professor is a pretty sweet gig, but really, there are a lot of other interesting things to do and see in the world.

    While I imagine that the tenure issue was the immediate cause for the violence, I can’t help but think that there were other problems within the department and Professor Bishop’s life. I am with the other commentators, the stories so far are kind of sketchy on details. To call a professor a “nerd” or “weird” could apply to anyone in academia at some point in their career. Hopefully the media and especially newspapers will do a better job covering the story as new information emerges.

    This is a real tragedy for the department, university, the students and Huntsville. My condolences for the families of the slain and wounded.

  9. John S. on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:49 am #

    I am always shocked by how deeply ingrained the “we will be safer if we all have guns” narrative is. My father is a big believer in this theory–and he’s a surgeon. So if, God forbid, someone from his office (or a patient, or whoever) came into his medical group and started shooting, by his theory they’d be safer if the office manager, another doctor, or maybe someone in the waiting room pulled out a gun and started firing away themselves. I suppose on the one hand, there would be four surgeons around to do triage afterward.

    But on the other hand, I also know my dad doesn’t own a gun, hates guns personally, and would never own one. The “everyone should have guns” theory effectively deputizes the entire population. But you know, maybe we wouldn’t all make good cops. (I include myself here, btw.)

  10. Erica on 13 Feb 2010 at 10:57 am #

    One dramatic murderous rampage out of hundreds (thousands?) of tenure reviews every year… hardly strong evidence in support of arming all faculty members — unless you also think Snowpocalypse proves the invalidity of “global warming”, and instead indicates we’re headed for a new ice age.

    (Considering the tendency of most professors I know to forget their glasses, flash drives, notebooks, coats, cell phones, I’d predict that all those well-armed professors would have buried their guns under a pile of research in their respective offices and not have had them at the meeting anyway.)

  11. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Not only is the “more guns = less crime” narrative to blame. As Gavin notes, the Dirty Harry fantasy is much more powerful than the realities of increased rates of gun ownership, which correlate with increased rates of injuries and deaths due to accidents, suicide, etc.

    Guns are not just deadly weapons–they’re vehicles for attractive & sometimes overwhelming fantasies for vengeance. Isn’t that what lurks in the minds of both mass murderers and the would-be heroic avengers that would stop the murderers? Both kinds of people believe that they’re using their weapons in a just fashion–rendering a kind of ultimate (if not divine) justice to sinners?

  12. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Erica–good to hear from you again! Your point about the reality of “absent-minded professors” is right on: what makes anyone think it’s a good idea to arm people who have trouble finding their asses with 2 hands and a map, let alone using basic classroom technology?

    (I include myself in this category–I can’t exempt myself at all, as my students and colleagues can tell you!)

  13. Janice on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:15 am #

    It’s a tragic occurrence and a sad reality that someone’s first response would be to demand that “Everyone else should have been armed!”

    Possession of a firearm and even training in the use of the same doesn’t in any way equip a faculty member or student to react to such an uncharacteristic event. Unless we all have to undergo SWAT training on top of the other training they keep mandating each year (apparently I now have to complete an online course in “Accessible Customer Service”).

  14. Jonathan Rees on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:23 am #


    On a parochial note, how’s that guns on campus policy thing working out up there in the northland? Ours is that you can only carry a gun on campus with the expressed permission of the President, which strikes me as the only sane way to do it if you have to allow it at all.

  15. thefrogprincess on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:23 am #

    I’ve said this before but even the police and others trained to use firearms make catastrophic mistakes all the time. I simply do not understand the world this arm of the pro-gun lobby lives in where adding more whizzing bullets to the fray saves lives and doesn’t simply mow down people running out of the way.

  16. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:38 am #

    Janice: might “accessible customer service” include a few hours’ training with guns? I’m already fantasizing about Notorious’s comment on the value of firearms in intimidating students. Don’t like your grade? Why don’t you take it up with my colleagues, Professors Smith and Wesson?

    Jonathan–I haven’t heard much about the policy lately. I assume that the board’s decision is what it is–but in the absence of metal detectors, I also assume that people on campus can pretty much do whatever they want to. (Hence, my increasingly strong interest in that Kevlar vest.)

    I should say, in all seriousness: my thoughts are with the surviving victims, their families, and the friends and families of the dead.

  17. Lucky Jane on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Hmm. I take back what I said about restricting guns. Bishop accidentally shot and killed her brother in 1986, according to the Boston Globe. I still hate the way this story is being reported.

  18. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 11:56 am #

    Wow, Lucky Jane–thanks for sharing that link. Ya think our gun laws are too lax in this country? Shouldn’t even an accidental fatal shooting disqualify someone from ever legally owning a gun again???

  19. KrisT on 13 Feb 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Professor Bishop accidentally shot and killed her brother 24 years ago. Very odd.

    If she was developing research during her tenure-track research, and was then denied tenure, who holds the rights to what she produced during that time, the university, or the professor? I was wondering about that, when I was watching the news, because I know that at my own undergraduate institution, this issue became problematic when a TT professor in the sciences developed some kind of cutting-edge gene-sequencing thing and then was denied tenure, and the work stayed at the U, and the professor went elsewhere, and there was a lot of acrimony, mud-slinging, lines drawn, and fighting. However, nobody brought guns to campus to settle the fight.

  20. Janice on 13 Feb 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    I read through all three generic “Accessible Customer Service” modules. No guns mentioned (thank goodness!). Also, nothing linked to our particular campus or situation. So, for instance, if I have a hearing disabled student, I wouldn’t know with whom to speak to get an FM transmitter set up. Annoying oversight!

  21. Kathleen Lowrey on 13 Feb 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    I’m curious about the degree of premeditation involved — did she turn up for the meeting prepared to shoot people, or did she just carry a gun at all times, get upset once at the meeting, and pull it out?

    I also wonder — and this is, of course, pure ungenerous speculation on a topic about which I know absolutely nothing — about that long-ago shooting. If I had two children, and one shot the other in a fit of temper, I imagine I’d be quite likely to tell the police I’d witnessed an entirely accidental shooting (cleaning the gun, etc.) because burying one child and seeing the other sent to prison would just be too much to bear.

  22. Comrade PhysioProf on 13 Feb 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    In relation to the accidental killing of her brother, the only witnesses were the shooter, her mother, and the dead brother. “Cleaning the gun”, “showing the gun”, “removing a shell”, are common stories when someone gets shot.

  23. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    See the latest update, above–the story just gets more gothic as the day goes on. Does it make it any creepier that her brother was also apparently a gifted young scientist in the making?

  24. Comrade PhysioProf on 13 Feb 2010 at 2:55 pm #


  25. Matt L on 13 Feb 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Oh no. This is really dark. I’m with Kathleen and PhysioProf on this one. The mother is thinking, lets not loose both kids. Bury it. Why should someone so young suffer for a heedless mistake… what a shame to loose two young scientists, etc. Very Gothic Indeed.

    I think that this shooting was premeditated. According to the NYTimes, Bishop was in the last semester of her sixth year. So she had been denied last spring. Plenty of time to seethe and stew in ones juices. Plus, as one of the commentators mentioned above, there are plenty of sticky intellectual property issues lurking in the shadows. Who owns the patent on the nifty new cell growing machine? The university, the Biotech incubator, and the state might have all had a stake. One wonders if Bishop lost her stake after losing tenure. Again, that wrangling would have had to go on for a year.

  26. madaha on 13 Feb 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    It disturbs me that this article makes such a big deal out of the fact that she had “opinions”. What’s that got to do with her being unstable? Her professional opinions don’t sound problematic to me.


  27. Historiann on 13 Feb 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Yeah–it seems more germane that she had “a gun.” But apparently, having opinions is the sign of a dangerous person!

  28. madaha on 13 Feb 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    well, it makes me wonder, opinions = dangerous, if you’re a woman? It’s creepy.

  29. Kathleen Lowrey on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    does anyone else feel alarmed by the emerging narrative of “untenured professors! SOOO stressed and SOOOO socially maladjusted and SOOOO focused on this one thing that it’s a wonder they don’t shoot people all the time, watch out especially for the opinionated ones!”

    (Okay, maybe I feel alarmed by it as an opinionated untenured prof)

    But in all dispassionate objectivity :), I really feel like the *last* thing the professoriate needs is “more disciplinary surveillance directed especially at the mouthier of the nerds among us”. As Historiann pointed out, what was dangerous about this person was not her opinions but her readiness to kill people. These are (ahem) different things.

    It will be interesting to see how much this gets played as a “wacky faculty” / “tenure tunnel vision” story and how much it gets played as a “person with a history of violence turns to violence” story; already, apparently, conservative academy-haters are making hay of the fact that she & her husband showed signs of leftism, playing it as a clear warning of their dangerousness.

  30. Kathleen Lowrey on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    this just seems like it could feed into some existing trends in the “administrization” of the university: another reason not to trust faculty (or, better put, to justify not trusting faculty).

  31. cory on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Quote: Comrade PhysioProf In relation to the accidental killing of her brother, the only witnesses were the shooter, her mother, and the dead brother. “Cleaning the gun”, “showing the gun”, “removing a shell”, are common stories when someone gets shot.

    Its not the gun its the person behind it and yes lots of gun owners shot themselves cleaning or unloading . I would like to know all the reasons they denied her tenure . If its anything like business we call it the boys club, If its a labor union your in the click, I find people that are exceptionally bright have very little common sense. And everyone is walking a thin line what makes you break today is something you would laugh at on a different day , Just look at yourself driving in traffic like the dc cop that pulled his gun after a snowball hit his car. So much for training point is its about you and how you treat people since 1985 I have fired 1 person and laid many off after telling them what they did wrong and giving them a good reference for their next job and unemployment, money helps. rejection is hard to face for any reason its like losing a game I learned to lose when I played football 1W-9L season never hurt to lose after that. The professor who did the shooting will spend her life in jail or be put to death the survivors will live with fact of how they rejected a colleague and did they treat her right? this is not about guns ask the woman who ran her cheating husband over and over with their Mercedes if she needs a gun to kill.

  32. HistoryMaven on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    No friend of gun ownership here. For my own health and protection and the financial welfare of my family, however, may I ask that states require and insurance companies raise their premiums for gun owners? It’s one thing to engage fantasies of protection, control, and vengeance; quite another to take financial responsibility if those fantasies are realized, even by so-called well-meaning, fun-toting Good Samaritans.

  33. Comrade PhysioProf on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Cory, do you know what a sentence is?

  34. cory on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    No I only went to vocational school I hated English loved history and I am your worst nightmare because I know how to make money and live good with a high school dipolma..Cory

  35. cory on 13 Feb 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    HistoryMaven on 13 Feb 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    No friend of gun ownership here. For my own health and protection and the financial welfare of my family, however, may I ask that states require and insurance companies raise their premiums for gun owners? It’s one thing to engage fantasies of protection, control, and vengeance; quite another to take financial responsibility if those fantasies are realized, even by so-called well-meaning, fun-toting Good Samaritans.

    What insurance company would insure a gun owner with liability ? I can tell your wet behind the ears simple fact its about guns to you it has nothing to do with the people involved and their decisions. If all guns were illegal you could still get one, Can you buy drugs? It would just be another reason to smuggle something over the border. Here in N.J. every hand gun you buy takes 3 months and and FBI background check than you local police must approve it just in case you just had a fight with your wife its a cooling off peroide…Cory

  36. Life, Death, and Tenure: Murder at UA Huntsville « Kittywampus on 13 Feb 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    [...] The solution, obviously, isn’t a return to the Wild West. A year ago, I argued against a pistol-packin’ professoriate. Historiann comes to the same conclusion today. [...]

  37. Anastasia on 13 Feb 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    I hear the potential issues with the “all untenured professors are workplace shootings waiting to happen” narrative but I’m equally troubled by “there’s nothing wrong with the tenured process, she was already unstable.” Even functional, stable people do outrageous things under extreme stress. Which is maybe why it’s better if they don’t have guns? That works for me.

  38. A1066 on 13 Feb 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    The biggest issue to my mind with “More guns=makes people safer” is that when the police show up and everyone has a gun out, the officers don’t know who /they/ need to shoot.

    A couple of years ago some guy went on a rampage in my college town which ended with a shootout in the center of town. A student ran out with a gun to try to “take him down” or whatever and nearly ended up killed by the police who had no idea how many shooters there were or what exactly was going on.

    In situations like this, more guns means that officers of the law have more people to fear while they try to regain control of the situation and ensure peoples’ safety.

  39. Ellie on 14 Feb 2010 at 10:36 am #

    I also really hope this doesn’t fuel the guns-on-campus movement, but what truly disturbed me about the media coverage of this story was the initial reporting Friday afternoon, when even NPR was reassuring listeners that “the people killed were ONLY faculty and staff. No students were involved.” Or something to the effect that the violent deaths of faculty and staff didn’t fit into the standard narrative of the campus shooting and therefore shouldn’t concern parents or the rest of the American public. It’s only a campus tragedy if students are killed; otherwise, it’s just more evidence for the crazy, out-of-touch professoriate narrative.

  40. Lucky Jane on 14 Feb 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Ellie writes:

    what truly disturbed me about the media coverage of this story was the initial reporting Friday afternoon, when even NPR was reassuring listeners that “the people killed were ONLY faculty and staff. No students were involved.”

    Holy crap. After the Virginia Tech shootings, all the faculty at my campus were required to complete an instruction session on classroom emergency preparedness—which amounted to watching a video and completing an online quiz of twenty ungrammatical questions. Yet another administratively required clause went on our already legalistic syllabi. At the time I thought this safety-theater rigmarole was above my pay grade. Now I think it’s an unreasonable lot of pressure to put on a poorly socialized, ticking time bomb that doesn’t count among such a tragedy’s “real” casualties.

    As to the gun issue, I must emphasize that what I really know about this case is nothing. But the big clue to me about how Guns in America relate to Bishop’s actions is that, as somebody who killed someone with a gun, she was able to pick up a gun again. I’m referring not just to what Historiann said about the “mulligans” tolerated in order to preserve our sacred Second Amendment, but to something much more basic: how one even gets to the point that one could even touch a gun again. Bishop’s ability to do so is chilling to me; moreover, according to the police her gun was not registered. But again, I know nothing.

  41. Indyanna on 14 Feb 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Ungrammatical on-line questionaires and mandamus clauses on syllabi. As Kathleen Lowrey evocatively terms it, above, more “administrization” of the collegium. I think it’s time for some civil disobedience around these “compelled speech” issues. The syllabus should be (re)defined with things like the lecture itself; off-limits to the suit brigade.

    Q: Is there a 1981-style PATCO (“air traffic controllers”) solution waiting out there if such a thing were to happen profession-wide someday?

  42. Female Shooter at University of Alabama « Knitting Clio on 14 Feb 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    [...] Studies, disability studies, women's health | via The Human Condition Blog – Newsweek.com, Historiann, Kittywampus, and others.   University of Alabama, Huntsville biology professor Amy Bishop shot [...]

  43. Comrade PhysioProf on 14 Feb 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!!! Now there’s a report that Bishop was a suspect in the attempted letter-bombing of a faculty member at Harvard who she thought was going to render a negative evaluation of her doctoral dissertation research.


  44. Kathleen Lowrey on 14 Feb 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    good googeldy mooks. Well, somehow I think the odds are going down that this particular faculty member is going to be used as any kind of stand-in for the rest of us.

  45. Knitting Clio on 15 Feb 2010 at 5:55 am #

    @Comrade — she and her husband were cleared by FBI — they questioned everyone who worked in that lab at the time.

  46. Digger on 15 Feb 2010 at 10:19 am #

    I was also struck by the pro-gun-carrying-on-campus quotes in the news. Honestly, owning a gun doesn’t automatically bestow you with supremely fast reflexes that would allow you to notice something was up, assess the situation, find your gun, pull your gun, aim your gun, and fire your gun (and then somehow manage to be unthreatening so that someone else doesn’t shoot YOU). Reports I’ve seen from folks at the meeting said there was no warning. She could have been fumbling for lipstick for all anyone knew. And how fast can you shoot 6 rounds? She probably needed only a couple of seconds. Even DRIVING and theoretically paying 100% attention, we need a good two seconds just to react, and lots of us drive all the time. But we’re not racecar drivers, and anyone who thinks and acts like they are, without the hours of training and practice, is liable to get themselves and the people around them good and dead.

  47. Cory on 15 Feb 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    A1066 on 13 Feb 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    The biggest issue to my mind with “More guns=makes people safer” is that when the police show up and everyone has a gun out, the officers don’t know who /they/ need to shoot.

    I would never say everyone should own a firearm , anyone who ownes firearms legally have been trained in safety and operation at least here in NJ. That said you know police take about 10 minuets to respond to a situation if a hand full of faculty had guns you might stop a group or an individual from going classroom to classroom but in this instance unless you are quick draw MC Graw it would not matter. Its not the guns its the people the gun was not registered witch makes it illegal to posses in NJ . Every state has different gun laws and over time we will understand more of what happened here Cory.

  48. Mamie on 15 Feb 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    @Cory. Hey, thanks for the image of uniformed police officers pausing to dance ten minuets on the way to a crime scene.

    That I enjoyed.

  49. John S. on 15 Feb 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    @Cory–I think that it is an artificial separation to say “it’s not the guns, it’s the people.” The fact is, it’s people with guns. You sensibly point out that Bishop’s gun was apparently unregistered (by the news accounts I have read), so her ownership of it was illegal. The question remains then–how strictly are laws regulating the ownership and registration of guns enforced?

    It has been my impression that gun-rights advocates like the NRA have historically been extremely unwilling to compromise on what seem to me to be sensible gun-owning regulations. (For instance, it was only after the 2007 shootings at VA Tech that the NRA expressed its support for a new law creating uniform regulations outlining how states should report individuals with mental illness to the federal government so that they might be prevented from purchasing firearms.) And a pro-gun rights Congressman sponsored a law in 2006 that mandated that the background checks conducted when guns were sold had to be destroyed in 24 hours, making it more difficult for law-enforcement to intercede when gun dealers or buyers are trying to skirt the law.

    In my opinion, most individuals I have heard say “it’s not guns, it’s people” are unwilling to support measures that would strengthen the hand of law enforcement officials trying to prevent guns from getting in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them (or taking them out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them and do). This is why I am skeptical of that position, since I think it oversimplifies a difficult problem. I realize that I might be putting you in a box where you don’t belong (you may be in favor of much stronger enforcement measures to prevent people like Bishop from getting a gun). But my general position stands.

  50. Historiann on 15 Feb 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    I’ve been away from this thread for a while–thanks to all of you carrying it along in such a civil fashion.

    From what I’ve read, Bishop did not have a license for the 9mm she used to murder 3 people and injure 3 others, 2 of them critically. But, my overall question stands (as John S.’s comment suggests): how did someone with her history get her hands on any gun, legally or no?

    Another interesting fact (for me) is that she’s a mother of 4, with kids ages 9-18. She so totally doesn’t fit the profile of a workplace mass murderer, that it’s hard to get my mind around it all. That said, I hope she is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law: no quarter should be given for her maternity. She’s the same as any other controlling, dirtbag mass-murderer, in my view. That she had no regard for her own children is horrifying, but not relevant either in eliciting our sympathy (as in, “she must have been driven to mental illness/desperation” or our additional approbrium.) Or that of a future jury, to state the obvious.

  51. Digger on 15 Feb 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    It’s my impression that if you don’t give a hoot if it’s legal or not, just about anyone can get their hands on a gun relatively easily. She may also have borrowed it from someone; I read some interview with her husband where he mentioned they’d gone to a shooting range recently, but he had no idea where she got the gun she had with her.

    Based on interviews her husband has had with the press, not to mention the fact he’s talking to the press at all, I suspect there is more weirdness to come out of this. (Really? You went shooting with your wife of 20 years, and didn’t ask where she got the gun? wtf?)

  52. Historiann on 15 Feb 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    Digger–my questions exactly. He’s been in the picture a long time–probably 20 years at least, if they have an 18-year old. What part of this equation added up to “guns are an awesome idea!?!?” With the four kids?!?!

  53. Digger on 15 Feb 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Here’s a link to the AP story about the shooting range/mystery gun


  54. cgeye on 16 Feb 2010 at 12:54 am #

    Historiann, boo, you’re misinterpreting the meme.

    Ever since Reagan, Harvard has Hated America — so being a Crazy Killa Academic’s from the Ivy League is as much as an article of faith among the right than being a DFH.

    Boston Magazine has made a speciality of highlighting the deviant academics gone criminal since it was founded — it’s irresistable for them.

  55. Historiann on 16 Feb 2010 at 8:32 am #

    cgeye–that was my fear initially–as someone upthread noted, the tic-like invokation of the adjectival phrase, “Harvard educated. . . ” But, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a “Harvard educated” professor really is a certifiably dangerous nutjob. (Like the Unibomber–he was “Harvard educated” too!)

    The American contempt for intellectuals and for higher education runs so deep that this crazed killer isn’t going to make much of a difference, either way.

    Thanks to Digger for digging up that link. How nice that her husband took no action to stop Bishop, although he noted that the family didn’t own a gun, he had no idea where she got the gun, and noticed that she went to target practice before her deadly rampage.

    Please, all of you married or partnered people out there: wouldn’t this concern you, especially if your partner/spouse had in fact killed hir own brother in a shooting “accident?” Wouldn’t you at least raise the alarm for your own safety and that of the children in the house?

  56. cgeye on 16 Feb 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    If a wife were talking this freely about her husband accused of mass murder, what would we assume? That he’s setting up the table for a fast and advantageous divorce. Note that he’s not expressing any fear of her, which would be the motivation for distancing oneself from a lethal spouse….

    I don’t know all the facts, but there’s a difference between cooperating with the police in their inquiries, and never refusing an interview from anyone. Just by talking about details which can be contradicted under oath, he’s damaging her right to a by-the-book legal defense — and no matter how guilty she’s judged to be, she’s entitled to that.

  57. Historiann on 16 Feb 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Agreed, cgeye–although the guy has a motive in wanting to distance himself from her! She called him after the murders to pick her up, and he may have responded to her call, innocently (or not.) I can understand wanting to put some space between them, if only for the sake of the 4 children who are now his responsibility to put back together and raise by himself.

  58. sally on 16 Feb 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    I’m sorry to say it, but I’m glad that she was married and with children. I am not married and have no children and every now and then get the attitude that women who are not are the very ones that you have to watch out for, as if we could be unnatural witches on the side or something.

  59. Comrade PhysioProf on 16 Feb 2010 at 7:19 pm #


    In March, 2002, Bishop walked into an International House of Pancakes in Peabody with her family, asked for a booster seat for one of her children, and learned the last seat had gone to another mother.

    Bishop, according to a police report, strode over to the other woman, demanded the seat and launched into a profanity-laced rant.

    When the woman would not give the seat up, Bishop punched her in the head, all the while yelling “I am Dr. Amy Bishop.”


  60. Historiann on 16 Feb 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    I certainly understand your perspective, Sally. I wonder if her “lifestyle” is what got her a pass on the 1986 and 1993 incidents in her past, and how because she was heteronormative and had children, people might not have raised the alarm about concerning behavior. (A man or a woman without children who got a gun illegally and started going to target practice might have been flagged! Reasonably so. But not the mother of 4. . .)

  61. Historiann on 16 Feb 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Holy Carumba, CPP!!! Great pickup. Thanks for keeping us posted on the Boston news.

    She really should have been stopped years ago. This is perhaps a lesson to all of us who have authority over whom we hire? It sure is easier not to hire someone, than to hire someone and then fire her, even if she’s untenured.

  62. Comrade PhysioProf on 16 Feb 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    I was pointed to the article by a commenter at another blog.

  63. Digger on 16 Feb 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    Whoa. If she’s that volatile, it might explain the weird family behavior. It doesn’t happen often, but women can be abusers also. One report said that while her hubby was “setting the record straight” with the press, her kids were inside singing karaoke. Now, I am of the opinion that karaoke is always weird, but most especially the day after your mother shot 6 people and got taken to jail… In that context, the gun would freak the motherlovin’ crap out of me, but I sure as hell wouldn’t push to find out too much about it.

  64. Kathleen Lowrey on 16 Feb 2010 at 8:42 pm #

    oh my goodness. Though really none of this, necessarily, would leave a paper trail? She got (1) not charged with the brother-shooting; (2) questioned but not charged with the pipe-bombing; (3) probation with the IHOP assault; (4) a reputation as a hassle with the local Huntsville police for constantly complaining about neighbor kids, but no real record there, either.

    I’m not sure any lessons can be taken from her — she’s a really special case. I don’t believe there are a lot of parallel instances out there for which we need to be watching out.

    Oh, but Digger — yeah, for sure. It doesn’t seem at all plausible that she was only violent *outside* the house.

  65. Historiann on 16 Feb 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Forget the paper trail. I think the lesson is that UA-H no haz teh Google? (Although admittedly, “Amy Bishop” is not a super-easy name to google.)

    I will never interview another candidate again without googling the $hit out of hir. And this might just push me over the edge into opening up a fB account just so I can see other people’s fB pages.

  66. Tyrone on 19 Feb 2010 at 5:37 am #

    If ever there was an example of given white man a past and it backfiring on white people it’s this incident! Only thing this was an angry white female!The University of Alabama-Huntsville white angry biology professor accused of killing three white colleagues fatally shot her white brother in Massachusetts more than two decades ago, but was given a past by white in authority. Her white young 18 years old brother is a victim of white on white crime made possible by whites in authority! The revelation by Braintree, Mass., police that Amy Bishop, then 20, shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth M. Bishop, in 1986 raised troubling questions over how that incident was handled. Bishop was never charged and police reports on the case have gone missing. The Boston Globe reported at the time that Amy Bishop had accidentally shot her brother. It quoted then-Braintree Police Chief John Polio as saying that Bishop had asked her mother, Judith, in the presence of her brother how to unload a round from the chamber of a 12-gauge shotgun when the weapon went off. Seth Bishop was struck in the abdomen and died at a hospital 46 minutes after the Dec. 6, 1986 shooting, according to the report. There are reports that after Bishop murder her brother. She ran into a store and told the person in the store that her husband was after her. She LIED! There are also reports that she was in a heated argument with her brother right before murdering him!

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