On this day twenty-five years ago, an unemployed loser, whose name I decline to write or speak, crashed his pickup truck through a window in Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. This cretin then proceeded to shoot 23 patrons to death and wound as many others before killing himself. His last act may have been only honorable one of his life, at least saving the citizens of Bell County and the State the time, trouble, and expense of dealing with his sorry life.
Among those murdered were Al and Ursula Gratia, who were having lunch with their daughter, Suzanna. Al tried to stop the assailant, but being unarmed, had no chance. At several points, Suzanna had a clear shot at the murderer, but, even though she was proficient and experienced with firearms, her handgun was stored uselessly in a car in Luby’s parking lot. She managed to escape through a broken window, believing her mother was following, but Ursula had also been killed.
Suzanna left her gun in the car because Texas law forbade persons other than peace officers from carrying handguns, except in very limited circumstances, such as traveling and hunting. Because she would have been committing a crime just by having a handgun inside the cafeteria, she could have been fined, jailed, and lost her license as a chiropractor. (Even having the gun in her car was problematic. It would have been her burden to prove the traveling exception, which was not statutorily defined.)
Of course, the law in effect at the time did not prevent the killer from having and using two handguns to perpetrate his murderous rage. No actual or proposed law would have prevented it either.
Suzanna Gratia Hupp did not take the loss of her parents lying down. She became an activist for a Texas law that would permit law-abiding citizens to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns with a minimum of hassle and red tape. Her activism propelled her into the Texas Legislature where she co-sponsored such a bill that Governor George W. Bush signed into law in 1997. She served in the Legislature for five terms. She has testified before Congressional hearings on various gun control measures on several occasions, firmly and cogently presenting the case for individuals to have and carry weapons for self defense.
Since the mid 1990s, nearly every state has enacted or modified its laws making it possible for honest citizens to possess and carry handguns and other firearms. See here. In the mid 2000s, the United States Supreme Court finally recognized that the Second Amendment of the Constitution means what it says. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008); McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010). Individuals have a right to keep and bear arms just as they have a right to speak and assemble, to worship freely, and be free from the government’s unreasonable searches and seizures.
The past quarter century has seen a sea change in individual rights insofar as the right to bear arms for self protection. Suzanna Gratia Hupp was not the only person in the forefront of this movement, but she has one of the most compelling stories and, rather than wringing her hands and wallowing in grief, took early action and pursued her cause to effect. She truly belongs in the pantheon of Texas heroes.
Note: The states with the most handgun carry licensees are: 1. Florida — 1.4 million; 2. Pennsylvania — 1.1 million; and Texas — 857,000.