by Blaine Smith, Associate Editor
With a new memoir, Suzanna Gratia Hupp continues to turn her life’s tragedy into victory for gun owners.
Speaking with Suzanna Gratia Hupp, it’s easy to forget she is a person who has witnessed things most of us couldn’t fathom, even in our darkest nightmares. Perhaps that’s why she’s an iconoclast in today’s gun debate—most know her life was marred by violence, yet she’s so approachable, forthright and, well, funny.
Her experience as a young woman seeing her parents murdered—shot to death—would seem to place her squarely in the anti-gun column. Yet the only thing disarming about Hupp is her unabashed love of American freedoms.
It was October 1991 when Hupp, dining with her parents in the Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, witnessed one of the most deadly mass shootings in American history.
In an effort to subdue the gunman who had crashed his pickup into the eatery and was strolling through the dining area gunning down patrons, Hupp’s father rushed the assailant. He was shot before her eyes. When Hupp escaped through a smashed window, she believed her mother was following. She would later learn her mother had gone instead to her husband’s side and was shot point blank by the gunman.
All the while, Hupp’s pistol rested in her car parked outside, worthless for protection.
“I had made the stupidest decision of my life,” Hupp says in her new memoir, “From Luby’s to the Legislature: One Woman’s Fight Against Gun Control.” “My gun was not in my purse any longer!
“I had done what many people do: I had rationalized that the chance of my needing it was slim, and the chance of getting caught with it somewhat higher. … I did not want to risk getting caught with it somewhere and potentially losing my license to practice chiropractic.”
As Hupp notes in the book, there was a moment in the restaurant, at the outset of the attack, when she had perfect cover and would have had a perfect bead on the gunman had she been in possession of her pistol.
“The gunman was rounding the front of his vehicle, his right shoulder toward me, when it dawned on me, ‘I’ve got him!’” Hupp writes. “I had a perfect place to prop my hand to help stabilize my little revolver on the upturned table in front of us. Everyone else in the restaurant was down, he was up, perhaps 15 feet from me, and I have hit much smaller targets at much greater distances.”
Hupp learned a different lesson from this tragedy than anti-gun activists. It wasn’t the gun in the hand of the murderer that day that stoked her anger nor, surprisingly, the man who committed the atrocities. Her vitriol was reserved for those who forced her to remain unarmed that day.
“I’m not angry at the guy who did it,” she recounts telling surprised reporters following the shootings. “We’re not talking about a career criminal. We’re talking about someone who went nuts. That’s like being angry at a rabid dog. You might have to kill it, but you’re not angry at it.
“But, I’ll tell you what, I’m mad as hell at my legislators for legislating me out of the right to protect myself and my family.”
It surprised many, in the days and weeks following the Luby’s massacre, to see this young woman who witnessed her parents’ murders speak so eloquently and frankly of the need for armed self-defense against the backdrop of, at the time, the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history.
But by framing her argument in the context of the events that day—her legislators had turned that restaurant into a “gun-free zone” where only the criminal could possess a weapon—Hupp’s story resonated.
She asked then, as she does in her new book, for people to place themselves in her situation that day. She asks you to imagine a demented gunman entering a restaurant where you dine with your family.
“He starts to walk, calmly and deliberately, executing the patrons nearest to him, who have been frozen with fear. … He wheels around to face you. His malevolent grin sends a chill down your spine, and you instinctively pull your child closer. There is no time for karate, pepper spray or conflict resolution. He continues with very slow and deliberate movements; the embodiment of evil standing before you brings his smoking weapon down to within inches of your toddler’s forehead. At that moment, there is only one question for you to answer:
“Even if you have chosen not to carry a gun, don’t you hope the guy behind you has one and knows how to use it?”
As Hupp’s story spread, she seized the opportunity to turn the tragedy that afflicted her family into a platform to ensure the right to self-defense for others.
When asked if the appearance on the pro-gun side of the debate of a young female whose family had been murdered—smashing stereotypical thoughts on what a “pro-gun advocate” is—helped further her agenda, Hupp answered in the affirmative.
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