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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

VA Tech shooting survivor shares story, advocates for violence prevention

Photo Credit: Gregory Wild-Smith via Flickr

What started off as a normal day, on April 16, 2007, ended in tragedy. Colin Goddard was in his 9 a.m. French class when a shooter charged into the room and opened fire. Goddard was shot four times, describing the sound of the gunshots as “constant bangs.”  He went into detail about the day, and told the audience how the experience “felt like a dream” and “was very surreal.” Goddard is a survivor of one of the deadliest school shootings in history; thirty-two people were killed at Virginia Tech that day.

On January 28, 2014, three days after a fatal shooting at The Columbia Mall in Maryland, Colin Goddard came to speak at Loyola University Maryland to share his story and subsequent passion for gun background checks. He has become passionate about helping society prevent these catastrophes.

Since the shooting, Goddard has been continually motivated to work with Congress to pass stricter gun laws in light of the repeated gun violence in America. Goddard said, “No substance of change in this country has ever happened overnight, and…it really takes an effort of a large number of people coming together.”

He believes that working together with other survivors from various shootings can develop a voice that is incredibly powerful in the gun debate.  “When most people think that gun violence won’t happen to them, it only happens to other people, and then they see someone [face to face] who went through it, it changes the dynamic of the entire issue,” Goddard said.

After recovering and finishing his degree at Virginia Tech, Goddard was watching the news when he saw reports of a shooting rampage at an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y.  This threw Goddard right back to his experience in 2007. He explained how this was the tipping point that made him say that we need to make a change. “This is how the whole world saw what happened to me and now [three years later] I’m watching it happen to someone else.”

Goddard decided to take action. “People don’t know this issue is out there; we have to show people the issue,” Goddard said, and that is exactly what he did. In addition to taking an internship with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation’s largest gun control organization, he went undercover into gun shows across America, wearing a hidden camera, to prove how easy it is for anyone to buy a gun.

Goddard contributed this footage to a film, titled “Living for 32.” Goddard said that “the film was made to shine a light on those unchecked gun sales that allow anyone with a dangerous history to buy guns without detection…We have a Second Amendment right to own firearms, but we need to do so responsibly. Requiring a background check for all gun sales so you know the gun you’re selling is going to the right person is just the responsible thing to do.”

He also told the audience that “making sure the system of gun sales is legit” will have a big impact on preventing gun violence. “This [background checks] is the one issue I think that we need to focus on now, and if this can make what happened in Newtown, Conn., a little less likely to happen to another family, then I think we’ve done good,” Goddard said.

According to Demand Action, a campaign of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, where Goddard currently works: “Under current federal law, background checks are only required for gun sales at licensed dealers. An estimated 40 percent of gun transfers take place between “private” parties, often at gun shows…or through anonymous online transactions. Both means of purchase are not subject to a federal background check.”

Demand Action reported that, last year, an estimated 6.6 million guns were transferred this way—no checks, no records, no questions asked. There are 16 states that go beyond federal law by requiring a background check for private handgun sales. Colorado passed this law in the summer of 2013 and since then, 72 convicted criminals have been stopped from buying a gun. Goddard’s effort is on the state level right now, but making background checks required for all gun sales on a federal level is the next goal.

Gun violence continues to plague communities across the country.  Even though Goddard has acknowledged that one piece of legislation cannot prevent all tragedies, he urges society take steps to reduce the prevalence of gun violence and save people’s lives.

Speaking about what college students can do to make their voice heard in this gun debate, Goddard said, “The impact that we can make by getting involved in politics and communicating with elected officials is the dynamic we need in order to change gun policy. Coming together, speaking with a unified voice about what they want is the missing piece in this whole thing.”

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VA Tech shooting survivor shares story, advocates for violence prevention