Jeff Shi

Former state Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp said to about 50 students Tuesday that she was not mad at the man who shot her parents and 22 others during the 1991 Luby’s massacre in Killeen.

“I was mad as hell at my legislators,” Hupp said.

In October 1991, gunman George Hennard drove through a Luby’s window in his truck and opened fire, killing 24 before taking his own life. Hupp said she believed she could have prevented Hennard from killing as many people if the law had allowed her to be armed. Hupp became a legislator in 1996 and worked for 10 years to pass bills that would allow Texans to legally carry a concealed weapon.

The Libertarian Longhorns invited her to speak at UT about the Second Amendment, specifically concealed carry on campus.
“Her story’s an unfortunate one,” said organization President Andy Fernandez. “But she’s a great speaker and an excellent advocate for self defense.”

Fernandez said the group organized the event as a follow-up to last semester’s speech by John Lott, University of Maryland at College Park economist and author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” Lott gave his speech after the Sept. 28 incident, when former UT mathematics sophomore Colton Tooley fired several rounds from his AK-47 before taking his own life. While the group moved the speaker off-campus to respect the feelings of those affected by the incident, Fernandez said the subject matter was important enough to not cancel.

Jeff Shi, Students For Concealed Carry on Campus president, said allowing concealed carry on campus would make him feel safer.

“You certainly may feel safer in a gun-free zone,” Shi said, “But the reality is that disarming innocent people does not protect innocent people.”

Texas legislators proposed several bills this session that would require universities to allow concealed carry on campus, which could alter current policies.

“‘Gun Free Zone’ laws do not work,” Shi said, “That is an uncomfortable truth leaders of the opposition refuse to admit.”
Shi said he was disappointed Students for Gun-Free Schools, the opposing campus organization, did not express any interest in attending the event.

John Woods, the gun-free organization’s executive director, said the current policy is working, but the current problem is suicides, not violent crimes. He said proposed legislation would not substantially affect the crime rate because rates are already low.

“Her story relates to a private business,” Woods said. “I don’t see what that has to do with campus. I think others will have a hard time seeing the connection.”

Woods said he wonders if the event was planned to coincide with his organization’s planned programming this week, including the presentation of a film, a panel of law enforcement officers and a lobbying day.

“The radical wing of one party is controlling dialogue for the whole state,” he said. “It’s very frustrating.”

Concealed carry of handguns on college campuses has been a divisive issue in the Texas Legislature since 2007, and elected officials will go another round on the issue once the new session starts in January.

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, filed a bill on Monday that would allow those who possess a concealed handgun license to carry a handgun on university campuses. To obtain a concealed handgun license, applicants must be of sound mind, have no criminal record, be at least 21 years of age and take a course on proper concealed carry procedure.

“We shouldn’t ask students to choose between being educated and being able to protect themselves,” Simpson said. “It excites me and gives me much hope as I meet with young people who are concerned about their government and want to get involved. If we can make the bill better, let’s make it better.”

Simpson said he would seek extensive input from students who both support and oppose the legislation as he continues to revise it. He said he wants to add an amendment to allow private colleges and universities to set their own policies on concealed carry.

He said he attended a Students for Liberty conference at UT this weekend and spoke with several students in College Republicans, national libertarian group Students for Liberty and other groups who expressed support for concealed carry, but he is interested to hear from students with opposing views. He is also seeking input on his Facebook page.

Jeff Shi, president of the UT chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, said he is glad the issue will find its way into the legislative conversation, but his organization will not decide whether to endorse the bill until the session actually begins. He said he did not think the 48-seat Republican majority in the new state House would necessarily impact the outcome of such a bill.

“There is going to be a misconception that the fight to get concealed carry passed will be a partisan one, which it is not,” Shi said. “Students for Concealed Carry is a nonpartisan organization, and our make-up comes from both Democrats and Republicans who support the bill.”

However, John Woods, executive director of UT Students for Gun-Free Schools and a graduate representative in Student Government, said the election results were worrying because several anti-concealed carry representatives lost their seats. He encouraged students from both sides of the conversation to call their state representatives about the issue.

Woods said the topic of campus suicides should be featured more prominently in discussions about the legislation, noting that guns are the most common weapon in suicide attempts and that suicide is the second-highest killer of college students.

“We have had zero homicides [on campus] in the last three years and only three in 30 years, but we have three to four suicides every year,” Woods said. “By adding additional means, we could be putting more students at risk of suicide.”

In October, SG passed a resolution affirming their support for the continued ban of concealed weapons on college campuses. The resolution gives representatives and executive board members the authority to lobby against concealed carry in the state legislature.