Suzanna Gratia Hupp at Luby's.
A DAUGHTER'S REGRET (SUZANNA HUPP)
Originally Posted by articleA Daughter's Regret
Suzanna Gratia Hupp will live the rest of her life with regret. Had she been carrying her gun the day a madman executed her parents while she cowered helplessly and then fled, she is convinced she could have stopped one of the worst massacres in U.S. history.
She has told the story many times over. Tomorrow she will relate it again before advocates of gun rights in a counter-rally to the Million Mom March. Put yourself in her shoes, she asks, and then think again whether gun control is the answer.
It was October 1991 when an unemployed merchant seaman drove his pickup truck into a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Tex., leaped out and opened fire. He killed 23 people and wounded more than 20.
Hupp and her parents were having lunch in the restaurant when the shooting started. Hupp instinctively reached into her purse for her .38-caliber Smith & Wesson, but she had left it in the car. Her father tried to rush the gunman and was shot in the chest. As the gunman reloaded, Hupp escaped through a broken window, thinking her
mother was behind her.
But Hupp's mother had crawled alongside her dying husband of 47 years to cushion his head in her lap. Police later told Hupp they saw her mother look up at the gunman standing over her, then bow down before he shot her in the head.
"I'd like people to think about what happened to me, and try to place themselves in that situation," Hupp said yesterday between a string of interviews in which she relived the tragedy as Exhibit A in her argument against restrictive gun laws. "Now, instead of thinking of their parents, have it be their children.
"Even if you choose not to have a gun, as the bad guy who ignored all the laws is getting close to you and as he levels that firearm at one of your children, don't you hope the person next to you has chosen to carry a gun and knows how to use it?"
The story is powerful, and not only because the question assaults the brain and invites no easy answers. With its implied alternative of an armed Hupp gunning down the bad guy before he gets too far, the story invokes the American legend of the frontier lawman who acts alone to thwart evil.
Unable to don that mantle when it could have saved her parents, Hupp, now 40, has been trying ever since to rally people against gun control.
When Texas debated the issue of concealed weapons in 1995, she strolled around the table at a committee hearing molding her fingers into a gun that she aimed at state senators. The next year, she ran as a Republican and won election as a state representative, an office she still holds.
She has promoted other issues, such as water rights. But her personal story trumps all other issues. For years, the National Rifle Association paid her expenses as she traveled the country testifying in favor of gun rights. Her story always commands attention. Before the massacre at Luby's cafeteria, nothing in Hupp's background suggested that she would become so closely associated with gun rights.
She was raised in central Texas, the middle of three children. Her father, Al, owned a heavy equipment store. Her mother, Ursula, was a homemaker.
Al Gratia was a man so gentle he didn't hunt and even quit fishing because he didn't want to hurt the fish. But he owned a BB gun, and taught his children how to shoot and practice gun safety. After Hupp's brother shot and killed a dove, however, no one in the family ever used the gun again.
As a child, Hupp was a victim of careless gun use. When she was 11, she was fishing with her brother and some friends when one of the youths handed a pellet gun to another youth and it went off. Hupp has a two-inch-long scar near her right elbow where the pellet entered her skin and had to be dug out.
After getting a degree as a chiropractor in 1985, she moved to Houston. An assistant district attorney who was a patient suggested she carry a gun as self-defense in the big city.
She argued against it, partly because it was then illegal to carry a concealed weapon in Texas.
"Better to be tried by 12 than carried by six," she recalls her patient advising her. Another friend gave her a pistol as a gift and taught her how to shoot it.
She carried it in her purse. But, afraid of losing her chiropractic license if she were arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, she often kept it beneath the passenger seat of her car.
That's where it was, 150 feet from Hupp's grasp, the day George Hennard burst into Luby's. The what-ifs haunt her. Hennard stood barely 10 feet from her. He was up, she was down. She had clear aim. The upturned table would have steadied her hand. Though not a crack shot, she had hit smaller targets from farther distances.
"The point is, people like this--no, scumbags like this; I won't put them in the people category--are looking for easy targets," said Hupp. "That's why we see things occurring at schools, post offices, churches and cafeterias in states that don't allow concealed carrying."
Nothing sways her. After the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, Hupp seemed to suggest that teachers should carry concealed weapons. She insists that what she said was something different:
"I wanted to know why the state treats teachers like second-class citizens, when plumbers and doctors are allowed to protect themselves on the job," she said. "I would be happier sending my child to a school where a teacher whom I trust is armed and well prepared."
She is equally oblique when talking about places where guns are banned. Even in Texas, which began allowing concealed weapons in 1996, guns are banned from several types of establishments, including churches, sports arenas, government offices, courts, airports and restaurants serving alcohol. Hupp refuses to say outright that she believes people should be allowed to carry guns to church. She picks her words carefully.
"We have created a shopping list for madmen," she said. "If guns are the problem, why don't we see things occurring at skeet and trap shoots, at gun shows, at NRA conventions? We only see it where guns aren't allowed. The sign of a gun with a slash through it is like a neon sign for gunmen, 'We're unarmed. Come kill us.' "
To Hupp, the right to bear arms is a family issue. Her two sons will grow up learning to defend themselves with a gun. The elder son, 4, has been taught gun safety and has fired his first shot.
"A gun can be used to kill a family, or defend a family," Hupp said. "I've lived what gun laws do. My parents died because of what gun laws do. I'm the quintessential soccer mom, and I want the right to protect my family. What happened to my parents will never happen again with my kids there."