© 2024 WEMU
Serving Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, MI
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

30 years ago, she survived a mass shooting. Now, she advocates for concealed carry


Suzanna Gratia Hupp survived a mass shooting. She and her parents were having lunch at a Luby's in Killeen, Texas, in 1991 when a gunman opened fire and killed 24 people, including her parents, Al and Ursula Gratia. Al tried to rush the shooter. Suzanna Gratia Hupp had left a gun in her purse in her car. She went on to serve five terms as a Texas state representative and has become an advocate for carrying concealed weapons. Suzanna Gratia Hupp joins us now from Lampasas, Texas. Thank you so much for being with us.

SUZANNA GRATIA HUPP: Well, thank you for asking me.

SIMON: All these years later, I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for speaking with us.

HUPP: I appreciate that.

SIMON: Does the horrific loss of life this week in Uvalde change your thinking about gun laws?

HUPP: No, absolutely not. It cements it. Something that I don't think a lot of people understand is that about 30% of our schools here in Texas have a Guardian program where they allow their teachers, allow their staff members who want to and who go through a little extra training to be able to carry on the grounds. At least you have people in place that can prevent that.

SIMON: But I have to ask, based on what we understand about what transpired in the terrible attack in Uvalde so far, I mean, you had scores of armed people who were on the scene. You had people in the school, and didn't do any good.

HUPP: You had scores of armed people that were outside of where the bad guy was. Look. I'm not saying guns are a guarantee. I'm saying they change the odds.

SIMON: Why should someone be able to buy an assault weapon before they're old enough to order a beer in Texas?

HUPP: An AR-15 - AR does not stand for assault rifle. It stands for Armalite rifle, which is a brand name. It comes in a number of different calibers. So in answer to your question of the 18-year-old, yes. I personally don't care what age we pick, but I agree with you that it's ridiculous to allow somebody to buy a gun and not buy a beer. We should have one age of majority, and that's the age when we recognize that you are now an adult and get to make adult decisions.

SIMON: But let me follow up a bit on our difference of opinion, if I could, about the assault rifle. I call it that because I've covered ten wars, and it certainly, to my eye, resembles the kind of weapon I've seen used in wars. And I simply do not understand why an 18-year-old should have one.

HUPP: You're looking at how it looks. And it literally was just made to look that way because it was a popular look. I'm sure that's what sold well.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the manufacturer's responsibilities. What if they made AR-15s look dumb and ugly?

HUPP: Honestly, I don't think it really matters what they make it look like. I'm sure that the free market is going to step in, and whatever they think sells the best is probably what they're going to use.

SIMON: I have to ask this, having covered so many wars and too many school shootings. I don't know how to not put this in most blunt personal terms. I just despair of a world in which our children grow up surrounded by guns.

HUPP: If guns are the problem, then explain to me why we never see any of these horrible things happen at the dreaded gun show or an NRA convention, or places where there are thousands of guns in the hands of people.

SIMON: The NRA convention, meeting as we speak in Houston, very notably, frisks people.

HUPP: Yeah, that's kind of weird. Now, I don't know the reasoning behind that, but that's interesting. I don't know if that's a Houston thing. If you don't mind, I would like to mention, though, that there are things that can be done that I believe would stem the tide. One of them is exactly like I mentioned, I think teachers and staff should be allowed to carry. But number two, there are some mental health issues that I think - you know, nobody really knows what to do, but we actually have a plan that we're working on. My husband is a criminal psychologist, and he's been directly tied with a couple of mass shootings. And he said most of these guys have - they give clues. As we know, they mostly give clues. And there are - very typically, what people do is a risk assessment. And he said, you know, risk assessments are worthless in a situation like that, but a threat assessment is an entirely different animal. And by using a threat assessment, and putting some protocol in place to what to do with that person if they are a threat - because right now, we tell everybody, if you see something, say something. So people pick up the phone, and they call their teacher. Or they pick up the phone, and they call the sheriff's department. And the sheriff's department or the teacher - they don't know what to do with that.

SIMON: You mentioned the importance of mental health. Didn't Governor Abbott slash a lot of money from the state mental health budget?

HUPP: I actually don't know all of the details on that. I've been out of the legislative process for a while. I - my guess on it, having worked with it in the past, is that there were a tremendous amount of redundancies that were eliminated. But that's just my guess.

SIMON: Do you worry that, out there, there is one or a hundred other 18-year-olds who hear about this and say, I bet I could do that?

HUPP: Yes. And in fact, I remember, after the incident I was involved in, I remember watching the media and thinking to myself, there's some sick S.O.B. out there right now listening to the body bag count and thinking to themselves, I can do better than that.

SIMON: Well, how do we keep a gun out of his or her hands? Their hands?

HUPP: Yeah. I don't think you can. And that's my point. That's why you've got to allow the rest of us to be able to protect ourselves from that madman.

SIMON: Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a former Texas state representative and author of "From Luby's To The Legislature: One Woman's Fight Against Gun Control." Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

HUPP: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.