You don’t get mad at a rabid dog. You shoot it. – Suzanna Gratia Hupp
If you have to pick just one issue to run with in Texas, the Second Amendment is a pretty good bet. Throw in Jesus, and you’ve got the best combination since bread and butter, politically speaking. That’s why the recent alliance of Rick Green, the twenty-seven-year-old, Christian-right prodigy, and Suzanna Gratia Hupp, the gun lobby’s trigger woman at the Capitol, has people running for cover. In recent months, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami have filed suits alleging negligence by major gun manufacturers – and seeking reimbursement for costs associated with gun violence, especially in the inner city. The two Republican legislators have teamed up to sponsor House Bill 1561, to ensure that no Texas cities will be filing similar suits – which Green compared to punishing auto makers for the actions of drunk drivers. “We believe in Texas that you place the blame on the party responsible,” Green said. For Randy Gibson, executive director of the Texas State Rifle Association, filing suits against gun manufacturers is like “suing the maker of kitchen flatware if someone had an accident with one of their forks.” (An estimated 35,000 Americans, including 500 children, are killed by gun violence. No statistics are available on fork deaths.)
This is the first shot at gun legislation for San Marcos freshman Green, who has filed only six bills in his three-month career. For Hupp, H.B. 1561 is her first bill this session; her other bills on file would allow judges to carry guns (H.B. 305), remove the law-enforcement notification requirement for concealed handgun permits (H.B. 1021), and eliminate the prohibition against carrying concealed handguns on the premises of institutions of higher learning (H.B. 1305).
Hupp’s motivation is sincere. She is a survivor of the 1991 Luby’s mass murder in Killeen, where twenty-three patrons, including Hupp’s parents, were gunned down by a single crazed gun owner. Her response, however, is more guns. Hupp argued that had Texas law allowed her to carry her gun into the restaurant rather than compel her to leave it in her car, things might have gone down differently in Killeen in 1991. After she toured the nation with her story, Hupp returned to Lampasas to run for the House in 1996, on a single-issue campaign: the right to carry concealed handguns for personal protection (and, as she told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1996, to “protect us from those guys in Washington”).
Along the way, Hupp has picked up some loyal supporters, including the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association; both gave generously to her campaign. She also became the darling of the fringe element of the Second Amendment lobby, where the gun and the Bible are almost sacramental. Among her early supporters was Gun Owners of America, a group that consistently outflanks every reactionary position the N.R.A takes. G.O.A. director Larry Pratt may be the only person ever kicked off a Pat Buchanan campaign for being too reactionary. Buchanan gave his campaign co-chair the boot in 1996, after the national press picked up on the widely-known fact that Pratt had connections with Christian Identity leader Reverend Pete Peters, and almost every other racist, anti-Semitic, para-military, right-wing organization in the country. That hadn’t stopped Buchanan from hiring Pratt. Nor did it stop Hupp (and, to be fair, many other prominent Republicans, including Dick Armey, Steve Stockman, and Tom DeLay) from taking G.O.A. cash. Immediately after Hupp announced her candidacy, Gun Owners provided her the postage for a fundraising letter to the group’s entire membership. Hupp accepted at least two other donations from the group in 1996.
Green didn’t get any gun lobby money, but he talks like a believer baptized by campaign contributions and confirmed by the promise of future support. “Guns don’t commit crimes. Criminals do,” was Green’s tautological twist of the old N.R.A. saw.