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Monday, February 15, 2010

How Come the Killer Scientist was not Charged with Gun Possession in the Massachusetts Shooting?

Dr. Amy Bishop, the Alabama professor accused of shooting six colleagues, three fatally, killed her brother with a shotgun in 1986.  She was not charged, and the current police chief of the town has suggested that a former police chief covered up what might have been an intentional crime.  Whether the shooting was intentional or accidental, under every version of the facts Dr. Bishop possessed a shotgun, and the police report does not indicate that she had any license or permit, although it lists permits for others in the house.  If so, she should have been arrested for that.  For years, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has had one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.  Even to possess a long gun in the home requires a permit called a "Firearms Identification Card" abbreviated as FID.  Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 140, s. 129C.  There are exceptions, such as temporary examination in the presence of an FID holder, but according to Dr. Bishop's story, no exceptions apply.  Possession without an FID is punishable by up to two years incarceration. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 269, s. 10(h)(1).  If the killing was an accident, perhaps even manslaughter would have been too harsh a charge.   But as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, if you are ever going to prosecute someone for possessing a firearm in the home without a permit, it would seem that someone who killed another person as a result of their violation of law would be the one.  Had she been convicted of the crime, it might have been harder for her to get her hands on the murder weapon.  She likely would have had to do so illegally, and she looks like such a goof (no offense) that cautious criminals might have steered clear.  

Posted by Marc Miller on February 15, 2010 at 06:43 PM | Permalink

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As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, if you're going to prosecute someone for possessing a firearm in the home without a permit, it might be better to steer clear of someone who killed a member of his or her immediate family in an apparent accident, on the theory that the family has suffered enough.

Posted by: Hauk | Feb 16, 2010 10:14:19 AM

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