[C.D. Michel is a Long Beach civil rights attorney, former prosecutor, and author of California Gun Laws: A Guide to State and Federal Firearm Regulations. His clients include the NRA and CRPA Foundation.]
They have been shot. Some watched their families gunned down. Others buried bullet ridden children.
They all oppose gun control.
You might think that being a victim – directly or indirectly – of mass murder from rampaging gunmen would cause a person to campaign for gun control. Though this happens, numerous victims take a careful look at their circumstances and the monsters they encountered. They ponder the shooter, they review the gun control laws in place when violence changed their lives – then they actively campaign against more gun control.
These are not people who can be written off as “gun nuts,” or mischaracterized by any other hateful invective label often used by the poorly educated or the spinmeisters of gun control. Nor do these victims invariably champion gun ownership. They have simply concluded, after careful consideration, that existing gun laws do not prevent massacres, new gun control proposals will not prevent future ones, and that in some cases gun control may have facilitated slaughter.
These are their stories:
Columbine High School
“What I remember is the pure evil,” was Evan Todd’s recollection.
Todd was a student at Columbine High School the day 13 people were killed and many more were wounded with guns and explosives. Early in the assault, Todd saw one of the assassins, Eric Harris, coming down the hallway toward the school’s library while tossing pipe bombs into occupied rooms. When their eyes met, Harris chambered a shell into his illegally modified, sawed-off shotgun. Todd ducked behind a counter, but was injured when Harris fired a blast through the wood.
As the rampage continued, both Harris and his fellow killer Dylan Klebold discovered Todd hiding under a desk. Klebold pointed a gun directly into Todd’s face as he and Harris debated if Todd was a “jock” and thus was worth murdering. Quick thinking and pacifying words got Harris and Klebold to spare Todd before turning away and murdering a few more students – a killing field through which Todd later escaped.
“It is evidently clear that gun control does not hinder the determined murderer from achieving their goals, whether that is at a school, a church or synagogue, or a movie theater,” Todd once told a reporter. Harris and Klebold echoed similar conclusions in their “basement tapes”, video artifacts they filmed in the months before their massacre.
“Thugs in Chicago do not care about the laws on the books nor did Harris, Klebold, Lanza [Sandy Hook], Dorner [Los Angeles], Holmes [Aurora], Cho [VA Tech], Hasan [Fort Hood] or any other of the criminals hell bent on murder,” Todd opined. “Criminals and murderers love defenseless people and they are enabled by the laws that create such environments. Gun control is a blessing to those who wish to do evil and deadly to good people.”
Todd also said “When I actually educated myself on the issue it became increasingly clear that the gun control lobby and the politicians that share those views are in fact creating more problems than they solve.”
Suzanna Hupp agrees.
Hupp had sat down with her parents at Luby’s cafeteria when an enraged and unemployed merchant mariner drove his pick-up truck through the front window and into the dining area. Screaming “This is what Bell County did to me!” George Hennard began methodically firing on everyone including Hupp, her father Al Gratia and mother Ursula. Hupp lived. Her parents and twenty one other people did not.
Hupp survived by escaping, though her first reaction was to reach into her purse for a revolver she occasionally carried. State law at that time did not allow people to carry concealed firearms in public, and wishing to be a law-abiding citizen, Hupp had left the firearm locked in the glove compartment of her car. State law prohibited her from having it with her when Hennad’s pickup truck flew into Luby’s dining room.
“He was maybe twelve feet away … but then I realized … I took the gun out of my purse and left it in my car,” Hupp said of Hennard during testimony before congress. “My parents had just celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.”
“I can tell you that I’m not mad at the guy who did this. As he continued, it was obvious that he was a madman,” Hupp testified. “And I’m certainly not mad at the guns that did this. They didn’t walk in their by themselves and pull their own triggers … I’m mad at my legislators for legislating me out of the right to protect myself and my family.”
Hupp’s experience was transformative. She campaigned to enact her state’s concealed carry law and was later elected to congress. She wrote about her experiences in her book “From Luby’s to the Legislature: One Woman’s Fight Against Gun Control.”
Speaking to CNN, Hupp said “I know from personal experience that by the very definition, the only people who obey those laws are the good guys. The bad guys don’t obey the laws. Those things are an absolute waste of legislative paper.”
101 California Street Law Offices
David Frankel managed to evade the gunman who came to the law offices where he worked. The gunman arrived with a list of lawyers’ names and several handguns. But Frankel did have to bury his friends and co-workers. For a while he became a gun control activist, working with other lawyers to engineer and promote gun control in California.
Frankel sat barricaded in an office when he heard the gunman commit suicide on the other side of the wall. Once the police arrived on his floor and began calling workers out of hiding, Frankel learned how many had died. This included his friend Brian – a pal, a mentor, and according to Frankel “A dead man who hadn’t yet died.” Brian lived for months with a bullet inoperably lodged next to his heart, a bullet that eventually shifted and killed him.
“I worked behind the scenes. I co-produced a music video, a montage tribute to John,” said Frankel, referring to a co-worker who had shielded his wife from the raging lunatic. “I never missed an opportunity to publicize our stories, especially Scully’s, and campaign for gun control. I helped organize a march down California Street. I co-produced a documentary marking the first anniversary of the massacre. I was on the front lines of the gun control movement and I was exploiting the tragedy to make political gains.”
But in the back of Frankel’s mind loomed an unshakable question. If the gunman had found him hiding in an office, armed only with a woefully inadequate blunt object, would it have saved him? Or would he have died too?
Over the years and in places ranging from Maui to South Dakota, Frankel encountered more violent criminals and a lack of police presence. He realized that some of the same laws he had once promoted were preventing him from reasonable self-defense. That lingering doubt about if he would have survived, paired against encounters with fleeing felons, local rapists and a convicted murderer slowly changed Frankel from a gun control promoter to a practicing gun rights litigator.
“After the carnage at 101 California, a fellow said to me ‘If someone had had their conceal carry permit they could have saved a lot of people.’ At the time I scoffed and was terribly offended. But having been near fleeing felons, having lived in the same neighborhood where women were raped, and having faced down my own roving psychopath with the help of a handgun, I have changed my mind. It is a question every American needs to ask – might it make a difference?”
There is nothing to match the sorrow of a parent who has buried a child.
Parents of children killed by rampage shooters vary in their opinions – there is no unanimity. Many have spoken of the uselessness of gun control in the situation their children faced. Some speak against new gun control laws, thinking they are distractions from real solutions. Some are angry that laws may have contributed to their loved one’s death.
Darrell Scott lost his daughter Rachel in the Columbine massacre. Yet while testifying to congress, he saw something other than firearms as the culprit. “When something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs, politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA, “said Scott. “They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts. Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers.”
Guy Bennett nearly lost a son in a movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado. His son’s girlfriend was hit, but survived. “We need to abolish the defenseless victim zones,” said Bennett. “I’m tired of explaining to him why his girlfriend was shot and he could not defend himself.”
Bennett echoes a recurring sentiment among many, especially survivors of mass murder. In areas throughout the nation, especially at public schools, law-abiding citizens are prohibited from carrying a firearm for self-defense, even if they have a permit that otherwise allows it. Virginia Tech was a “gun free zone.” So were the movie theater in Aurora and the cafeteria in Texas. The common complaint has been that the choice, and hence the chance, to defend against a mass murder had been taken away by government. The other recurring complaint is that gun control didn’t save their children’s lives.
“Look,” said Mike Reynolds with a noticeable ache. “My daughter was murdered with a .357 Magnum. They placed it in her ear. What I want is that kind of conduct stopped.”
Kimber, Mike Reynolds’ daughter, was murdered by a parolee while opening her car door outside a popular restaurant. Two men on a stolen motorcycle pulled up to her and grabbed her purse. Kimber resisted and one of the men shot her in the head for want of her cash. Mike Reynolds later learned that both of the men responsible for his daughter’s murder were repeat offenders – criminals with records, out on parole.
Yet Mike Reynolds understands that the problem is not with the revolver used to kill his girl, but the gun control laws that failed to stop them. Instead of pushing for gun control, he caused California’s tremendously effective 10-20-Life law in passed.
“Let’s talk about some of the [gun-control] proposals,” Reynolds said during an interview. “Banning cheap handguns wouldn’t be effective. That would just end up putting more reliable guns out on the street.” Reynolds holds a similarly dim view on laws covering so-called “assault weapons” and extended capacity magazines. “You can get around a clip-size ban by taping two clips together and reversing them — you’ve walked around the law with nothing but a piece of tape. So while it may feel good, is it making things safer?”
“We do not need complex laws,” said Mark Mattioli whose six year old son died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings last year. “If there are going to be laws, we should enforce them … Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and I would say to people … I don’t think the gun laws are protecting the people let alone let alone the 500 who perished last year in that city. What have those laws done to make Chicago a safer city?” As for Sandy Hook, Mattioli tearfully concluded “What we experienced in Sandy Hook, did they break the law? Of course they broke the law.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who once declared she would outlaw all handguns if she could, recently said “Once you have been through one of these episodes, once you see what the crime scene is like — it changes your view of weapons.”
Some real shooting victims, people who faced “pure evil,” disagree They want a chance to survive, which requires not being deprived the chance by politicians. The vast majority of gun ban proposals pending in California would take away that chance.
Bio: C.D. Michel is a Long Beach civil rights attorney, former prosecutor, and author of California Gun Laws: A Guide to State and Federal Firearm Regulations. His clients include the NRA and CRPA Foundation.