Barrow Neurological Institute Puts Peter Steinmetz, AR-15-Toting Doctor, On Leave
The Barrow Neurological Institute has put its gun-toting brain scientist, Peter Steinmetz, on leave from his job.
Steinmetz made national headlines after he was arrested on Friday for mishandling a fully loaded AR-15 he'd brought with him to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Apparently, the gun-rights advocate was just trying to make a point about the legality of bringing a gun to the airport. But the incident has led to problems with his job as director of the Barrow's Neuroengineering/Human Neurophysiology Laboratory.
As New Times reported on Tuesday, Barrow wiped Steinmetz from its website. On Wednesday, the esteemed institute revealed further action in a new statement:
"Following his arrest at Sky Harbor Airport and after careful analysis and review, Dr. Peter Steinmetz has been placed on administrative leave as a part-time scientist at St. Joseph's Barrow Neurological Institute. St. Joseph's and Barrow will cooperate with the authorities regarding his arrest and we will continue to take very seriously the charges that have been filed against him. Dr. Steinmetz is a part-time basic scientist who works in a research laboratory. He has never treated patients at Barrow or St. Joseph's.That's all the Barrow will say for now -- and as you can see there's no indication of when he might return to work.
"We are proud to be leader in this community and to be respected by the medical profession around the world. The trust that thousands of patients and their families put in us every day is paramount. We are committed to maintaining that trust and the loyalty of our patients, our doctors and our staff."
Police arrested Steinmetz on suspicion of two counts of disorderly conduct with a weapon. The allegation is that the muzzle of his rifle briefly was pointed at two women at the airport, who later told police they were fearful of the gun. Steinmetz claimed he was just there to get a cup of coffee.
His Facebook and Google Plus sites indicate he's interested in gun-rights advocacy, judging by several news stories he's shared and commentary he's posted about gun issues. For instance, in one post he worries that the 2013 Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C. was "another case of a mass shooting in an area where all the victims are legally disarmed." He also wrote about sending a letter to U.S. Senator John McCain on April 10, 2013, to urge McCain to "oppose any attempt to debate or pass" a bill that would mandate "universal background checks."
Steinmetz published a short rant about the Transportation Security Administration on November 1, the day a TSA agent was shot and killed at the Los Angeles International Airport: "Why was this guy so angry? Perhaps the american people can wake up and realize that the TSA is routinely virtually strip-searching everyone while achieving absolutely nothing in terms of improved security... Time to get rid of the expensive and wasteful TSA!"
A few days later, Steinmetz and his teenage son showed up at Sky Harbor armed with rifles. Police asked them what they were doing, and Steinmetz told cops they were there to pick up his wife -- and to protest the TSA. No charges were filed because the scientist and his boy were doing nothing illegal that time. The gun-free zones begin at the TSA security checkpoints; any law-abiding citizen can hang out the busy airport armed to the teeth, it turns out.
Local gun-law guru Alan Korwin says Steinmetz has certainly "raised the question" about the legality of guns at the airport. Yet asked whether Steinmetz's actions contributed anything meaningful to the gun-rights issue, (our actual question to Korwin was whether this helped or hurt his cause), Korwin replies, "I don't know."
While reluctant to say too much about the case, given the lack of information or stated motive by Steinmetz, Korwin believes the "bottom line is if you have a right and you can't exercise it, do you have that right?"
"He's putting his life, his fortune and his sacred honor on the line for his beliefs -- it sounds like that's what he's doing," Korwin adds.
Perhaps. But assuming Steinmetz is as smart as his curriculum vitae would suggest, he would have known this stunt could interfere with his employment at the Barrow Neurological Institute. What's his game?
No one answered the phone at Steinmetz's home on Wednesday.
If Steinmetz feels wronged by the Barrow, well, he does have some experience in suing his employers. In 2008, he attempted to sue the state of Arizona and Arizona Board of Regents after he was fired from a job as associate professor of engineering at Arizona State University.