Beware the “Greater Good”

The lunch crowd was underway at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas on October 16, 1991. It was about 20 minutes before 1:00 P.M.  That’s when George Hennard  walked in and shot to death 23 people and wounded 20 others.  Twelve minutes later Hennard cheated the Texas execution chamber by turning the gun on  himself.

Suzanna Hupp was seated at a table with her mother and father when the shooting started. They turned the table over in an effort to hide from the gunman. At one point there came a lull in the shooting as Hennard emptied the magazine of all 17 rounds in his Glock 17. Ms. Hupp, an experienced gun owner, realized that she had a clear shot at Hennard and could have stopped him before he killed more people. She could have ended his murder spree then and there, if only…if only she had her gun.  In compliance with strict laws against concealed carry in Texas at that time she had left her gun outside in her car.

She and her parents decided to make a run for it. She remembers yelling, “Come on, Mom” and ran out with her mother and, she thought, her father.  When they got outside and realized her father wasn’t with them, Suzanna’s mom ran back in. She wanted to be with her husband, to help him out if possible.

But her father had already been shot and lay dying. Her mother was then shot dead by Hennard. Both of her parents and several other Luby’s patrons were killed or wounded. If only Suzanna had her gun, if only Texas gun laws weren’t so stupid, lives could have been saved. Hennard might have lived to be prosecuted, imprisoned and hopefully executed after a fair trial, something he denied 23 people who were killed and 20 others wounded.

Much later I recounted this event to a friend. It was in the middle of a discussion back and forth about guns and gun control laws. My friend was insistent, nobody but the police should have guns. That’s not possible I said, even the Soviet Union and other totalitarian states have not been able to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  The bad guys will always find a way.  Shouldn’t the good guys be able to defend themselves?, I said.

No, said he.  Why, said I?  Wasn’t it tragic that all those people in Luby’s had to die at the will of a mad man? Yes, but for the “greater good” said he, nobody but the police should be allowed to have guns.

Greater good? What the hell is that?, said I.  Good people shot down by a sicko like Hennard? That’s not even plain old good much less greater good!

My friend stuck to his guns, er,  gun-control narrative I guess. Dead bodies of innocents were deemed greater good to him over the horror of ordinary people carrying guns.

This is the mental process of a fanatic. Since then whenever I hear someone use the term “greater good” I get scared. What they really mean is they have something they want so bad they don’t care what has to be done to make sure they get it. If people have to die to satisfy their idea of “greater good,” so be it. To their warped egos a warm bath of self satisfaction is worth any cost.

So what people really mean when they hit you with the “greater good” is that the ends justify the means. If they can identify the end they seek as the “greater good” then the means are justified.  Too often the “greater good” is neither great nor good.

C.S. Lewis gave us some greater good insight into those who would condemn us to their version of what is great and good:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience

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