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Emotional Testimony at 'Concealed Carry' Hearing
By Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
March 8, 2001
Part of MPR's online coverage of Session 2001
Click for audio RealAudio

Republican Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp of Texas told the House Crime Prevention Committee about the death of her parents at a Texas restaurant. Listen to her testimony.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
Emotional testimony from victims of gun violence marked a hearing on a concealed handgun bill. Two women whose parents were shot in front of them told their stories to lawmakers. But the two took different sides in the gun debate.

MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE CRIME PREVENTION COMMITTEE first heard from Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a Republican legislator from Texas. Hupp's parents were among 23 people killed in 1991 during the nation's largest mass shooting. The incident occurred before Texas passed a law allowing most individuals to carry a concealed handgun.

Hupp says she had a gun in her car, but not in her purse in the restaurant where the shooting took place. She says she could only watch as a gunman walked through the restaurant shooting people one by one, including her father. Someone broke out a window, and Hupp was able to escape, but her mother didn't follow her.

"The cops, (who) were in the building next door, got over there in time to see my mother had crawled out into the open, where my father was, and she was cradling him until the gunman got back around to her. They said that's how they knew who the gunman was. They said he put the gun to her head, she looked up at him, put her head down, and he pulled the trigger," Hupp said.

Hupp says she was angry that "the Texas Legislature hadn't given her the right to protect myself." She says there's no guarantee she could've killed the gunman, but her revolver "would've changed the odds."

Elizabeth Cregan of St. Paul, who also lost her mother to gun violence, came to the opposite conclusion about concealed carry laws. Cregan says in 1976, her family got stuck in traffic on the south side of Chicago. She says a gang of men tried to rob her family, and one started shooting at the car.

Elizabeth Cregan of St. Paul, part of Minnesota Million Mom March, watched her parents shot while stuck in traffic in Chicago in 1976. Her mother died, her father survived. She opposes 'concealed carry.' She says a man three cars back had a concealed weapon and did nothing to help her parents. Listen to her testimony.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
"We were essentially sitting ducks, we were sitting under a streetlight, stuck in traffic, we couldn't move. By the time we realized where the shots were coming from, he had shot my father three times, and shot my mother in the back of the head once. Three cars behind us, there was a man with a loaded handgun. He never used it," she said.

Cregan's father survived, but her mother died. Cregan and other members of the group that organized the Million Moms March to push for tougher gun laws say arming more citizens won't reduce violence. They say access to more guns would result in more deaths, while supporters of concealed carry say states that have passed the legislation have seen a drop in violent crime.

The bill under consideration would make it easier for citizens who qualify to get a permit to carry a gun. Current law gives sheriffs and police departments discretion in deciding who gets a permit.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Linda Boudreau, R-Faribault, has a thick stack of letters from Minnesotans who've been denied permits.

Boudreau's bill faces some powerful opponents. Leaders of Minnesota's law enforcement associations boycotted the hearing in protest of the bill. Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, says the overwhelming majority of officers don't want to see more guns on the street.

"Not only is that a real threat to the safety of our citizens across the state, but it is a direct threat to the safety of police officers. Those officers who are out there 24-7, really do not need more people carrying guns," Flaherty said.

Flaherty says law enforcement associations are now focusing their opposition on the DFL-controlled Senate, where prospects are more uncertain and the concealed carry bill has yet to get a hearing. Gov. Ventura, who has a permit to carry a gun, sent a letter to Boudreau outlining his criteria for supporting a bill, and appears likely to sign it if it lands on his desk.