There’s an old wisecrack, true as witticisms, proverbs and aphorisms usually are. It goes like this – funny the things you see when you don’t have a gun.
Suzanna Gratia (now Gratia Hupp) was having a pleasant lunch with her parents in Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, when she saw a pickup truck come crashing through the wall. A man armed with two guns and plenty of spare magazines emerged from the truck and started shooting everyone in sight, including Gratia’s mother and father. Al Gratia was shot fatally in the chest. Ursula Gratia was shot point-blank in the head. More than 20 other people in the cafeteria were murdered in cold blood before the killer turned one of his guns on himself and blew his own brains out.
Suzanna hid under a table, clutching her purse which normally contained a .38 revolver. In deference to Texas law at that time, which prohibited carrying concealed weapons on one’s person, she had left her gun in her car. Several more dead diners had guns legally and inaccessibly locked in their cars. Suzanna Gratia Hupp has vowed never to make that mistake again, though such pronouncements always come far too late.
“The decision to follow the law cost me the lives of my parents,” she says. “There is not a day that goes by when I do not think about that.”
Not long after the Killeen massacre, John Taylor and Craig Godineaux knocked on the locked front door of a Wendy’s restaurant in New York City. They called out to the manager, Jean Dumel Auguste, by name. Taylor was familiar with the operation and layout of the restaurant, having worked there for a short time before he was dismissed for theft. The manager opened the door for Taylor and Godineaux and led them to his basement office. Minutes later, he used the store’s intercom to summon his entire night crew of six employees down into the basement for a meeting. What followed was one of the worst massacres in New York history.
The two armed killers herded all seven Wendy’s employees into a walk-in refrigerator, bound their hands, gagged their mouths, covered their heads with plastic bags, ordered them to kneel on the floor, and methodically shot each person in the head with a small-caliber pistol at point-blank range. They then stole about $2,000 in cash and left. New York law and Wendy’s corporate policy had prohibited the victims from arming themselves.
All of the people involved in these incidents were, in a profound way, responsible for their own deaths or the deaths of loved ones. They were equally responsible for the deaths of innocents who dared associate with them and, by abstract extension, for the deaths of everyone ever killed in similar circumstances. Anti-gun laws and policies are always complicit in the execution of innocents. And it’s appropriate that survivors are always ashamed of their inadequacy.
In the final analysis, to face evil with impotence – whether out of cowardice or feeble-mindedness or submission to foolish laws – could well be responsible for the death of society.
Suzanna Gratia Hupp decided to fight back. She set out to change the foolish laws. She turned her anger on her legislators who had “legislated me out of the right to protect myself and my family.” She joined the crusade for the right to carry concealed weapons in Texas and she ran for the state legislature. She was successful on both counts, though not in time to save the lives of her parents.
Today, Rep. Hupp has some harsh words for those gun-control fanatics who come out of the woodwork every time there’s a mass slaying like Columbine. “Why is it that mass shootings now seem to always take place in schools and post offices, places where guns are not allowed? They’re always in these so-called gun-free safety zones.” Like Luby’s cafeteria.
Five Wendy’s employees – Ramon Nazario, Anita C. Smith, Jeremy Mele, Ali Ibadat and Jean Dumel Auguste – took their shame to their graves. There was no good reason on earth why it had to end that way.
A scenario almost identical to that of Wendy’s in New York began to unfold at Shoney’s restaurant in Anniston, Alabama. Two armed robbers took over the restaurant, which was filled with two dozen customers and several employees, and started to herd everyone into the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. But this time a smart employee, Thomas Terry, drew his concealed .45 and shot both of the bad guys before this particular mass execution could take place. In a matter of seconds, one criminal lay dead, the other incapacitated, and more than two dozen innocent people had been handed back their lives thanks to a man who had a gun and was not afraid to use it. Thomas Terry, bleeding from a grazing wound to the hip, was happy to play the hero with so many lives at stake.
And still they ask, Why do you carry a gun? What are you afraid of? Do you think some nut is going to drive through the wall and start shooting everybody? Do you think a couple of hardened criminals are going to shove you in the refrigerator and execute you? To which you can only reply, Do you think when you walk out of here and cross the street you’re going to be hit by a truck?
Only when the custom of carrying a gun once again achieves its deserved high level of social legitimacy and political priority will this country get back on the track of respect for human freedom and dignity that has set it apart from the rest of the world for two centuries.
Written by Robert Boatman