By Gregory Crofton
Colin Goddard was shot four times while attending French class at Virginia Tech in 2007 by Seung Hoi Cho, a mentally ill 23-year-old fellow student in his senior year. Cho had chained and locked all doors leading in and out of the building and shot as many students as he could with two handguns that were reloaded with 15-round magazines. He ended up killing 32 people before shooting himself to death.
Goddard survived wounds to his hips, shoulder and arm and is now traveling the country as part of a campaign to make background checks a requirement for all gun purchases in the United States. This, I now know, is not required under current law. Gun shows and Craigslist are areas where this loophole is frequently exploited. Citizens are allowed to sell guns from their “private collections” without conducting a background check that might turn up evidence of mental illness or a criminal record.
Goddard participated in a question-and-answer session after a screening of LIVING FOR 32 at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. He is featured in the 40-minute documentary and hosts screenings around the country to raise awareness in an effort to change gun laws, a bill that addressed the background check issue pushed by President Obama and Goddard, among others, failed to gain traction in Congress.
The event on Tuesday was fund-raiser organized by Moms Demand Action, a group pushing “for gun sense in America.” The evening started off with the Pledge of Allegiance. LIVING FOR 32 then brought that day, April 26, 2007, back to life with Goddard’s first-hand account of the terror he experienced. But even more powerful is the film’s hidden-camera footage of Goddard purchasing automatic assault rifles and handguns at several guns shows. He buys the weapons without having to submit to a background check. In one instance, he’s even able to buy a gun without showing his driver’s license.
Moms Demand Action and Goddard have a damnable fight on their hands in Tennessee. One of the moms, Jennifer McMillen-Charles, reported to the audience that both Sen. Bob Corker (R) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) did not support the bill pushed by Goddard and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence group on Capital Hill earlier this year.
“If you sell guns you don’t have to do a background check, that’s something I had to get shot to learn,” Goddard said.
Other than educating the public, he aims to make gun violence real for people with this documentary and his campaign. It’s too easy, he said, to dismiss these violent attacks when they are learned about on television and seem so abstract. Dr. Raeanne Adams, head trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was on the Q & A panel to help enforce the reality of the situation in the Tennessee. She reported that Vanderbilt treated 277 gunshots wounds in 2012, 70 of which resulted in death.