Tech survivors rally for gun control

Colin Goddard (left) and Omar Samaha discuss'Living for 32.'
Armed with duct tape, Colin Goddard balanced on a chair to hang a screen so people could watch a film at the Richmond YWCA gymnasium.

Goddard appears to be fairly athletic. But four years ago, he was barely able to do one spin on a bicycle because of gunshot injuries he suffered during the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007.

Goddard and others gathered in Richmond this week to share their thoughts about gun violence as “Living for 32” – a documentary about the Tech massacre – was screened at the YWCA.
Goddard was one of the people who survived when a fellow Virginia Tech student, Seung-Hui Cho, entered their classroom and began shooting. Cho, who had a history of mental health problems, killed 32 people before killing himself.

Since then, Goddard and other survivors have become activists for gun control.

The film screening in Richmond was organized Monday by the Virginia Center for Public Safety. Colin Goddard’s father, Andrew Goddard, is president of the nonprofit group.
Gun control is the subject of debate in the General Assembly as the 2011 legislative session gets under way. It’s also a national issue after a gunman killed six people and wounded a dozen, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Arizona on Jan. 8.

Several bills before the assembly would relax existing firearms laws. Some would make it easier to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, prohibit the state from restricting firearms or exempt guns made in Virginia from federal regulation. The Virginia Center for Public Safety opposes such measures.

The center supports bills that would provide more gun control. One measure, for example, would require criminal background checks before people can buy firearms at gun shows. Other would ban firearms from libraries, the Capitol and the General Assembly Building.

“They have to keep guns out of the State Capitol,” Andrew Goddard said. “We don’t want consequences.”

To underscore how lax existing laws are, Colin Goddard goes to gun shows and demonstrates that he can buy weapons with cash – and without an ID or background check.

The film screening at the YWCA drew an audience of concerned citizens and victims and survivors of gun violence.

Omar Samaha, a Virginia Tech graduate, joined Colin Goddard in presenting the film and answering questions from the audience.

Samaha’s sister, Reema Samaha, was killed during the Virginia Tech shooting. Samaha now works with Students for Gun Free Schools, a grass-roots campaign to ban concealed weapons from college campuses. The campaign was started in honor of Samaha’s sister.

“Students feel they need to carry because they don’t feel safe ... it is a variety of social issues,” Samaha said.

The film recalls events that happened nearly four years ago. For many in attendance, the emotions were as raw as if the ordeal happened yesterday.

Alex Evans was the chaplain for the Blacksburg police and pastor at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. He was present the day of the shootings and said the film carried him back to the day.

“I felt a very emotional response,” Evans said. “But also very logical and practical. [Colin Goddard] is calling on us to improve our law and society.”

Goddard says he is not anti-gun; however, he believes society needs more control over violent weapons.

“Living for 32” will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah at the end of January and at Virginia Tech in February. Students can request the film to be shown at their university.

To learn more about “Living for 32,” visit the documentary’s website, http://livingfor32.com/
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Democrat VanValkenburg kicks off Gen. Assembly campaign


Senior students at Glen Allen High School will get a personal touch when studying elections with their AP government teacher.

That teacher, Schuyler VanValkenburg, recently announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 72nd District seat in the House of Delegates. If he earns the nomination, he will run against Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, who has been unopposed for 10 years.

VanValkenburg, a 2004 University of Richmond alumnus who majored in history, is running for office for the first time. Although he has lived in Richmond since he began his undergraduate studies, aside from one year spent in Seattle, he said he never felt it was his time to run. > Read more.

Construction begins on JA Finance Park at Libbie Mill


School and business leaders from around the region, including (pictured, from left) Simon Hodges of Dominion Resources, Daphne Swanso(president of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia) and Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas, gathered at Libbie Mill Library Feb. 23 for the Junior Achievement Finance Park construction kickoff. > Read more.

Assembly poised to OK state budget on Friday


Finishing a day early, House and Senate negotiators agreed on a budget Wednesday that includes employee pay raises and more money for K-12 education and mental health.

The negotiators presented their budget to their fellow lawmakers in time for the required 48-hour review, which could be completed by Friday night with a chance to adjourn their 2017 session before Saturday’s target date.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate praised the spending plan’s conservative fiscal policies. > Read more.

Section of Charles City Road to close beginning Feb. 26


A section of Charles City Road, from Lewis Road to South Airport Drive, will be closed beginning Sunday, Feb. 26 as part of a project to widen and improve the road.

The Henrico County Department of Public Works expects the closure to last for a few weeks.

Westbound traffic on Charles City will be detoured around the work zone by way of South Airport, Seven Hills Boulevard and Laburnum Avenue. > Read more.

ACLU urges McAuliffe to veto anti-immigration bills


Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday to veto Republican-backed legislation banning local governments in Virginia from designating themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. They also said they plan to fight federal and state policies that they believe violate immigrants’ rights.

At a news conference, representatives of the ACLU of Virginia and other civil rights organizations criticized anti-immigrant measures passed by the General Assembly. They also condemned the recent spike in deportation raids on immigrant communities in Virginia by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Given the warm weather lately, Saturday’s RVA Polar Plunge Winter Fest, benefiting Special Olympics Virginia, might actually be enjoyable! Other weekend events you’re sure to enjoy include the 14th annual Richmond Kids Expo at the Richmond Raceway Complex, the Richmond Symphony and The Taters in concert at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and the Richmond Ballet Minds in Motion Team XXL performing at the Henrico Theatre. This is also the last weekend to check out HATTheatre’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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Volunteers are needed to help clean East End and Evergreen Cemeteries from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. These cemeteries are the eternal sacred grounds for thousands of African American historical figures. Decades of neglect has obscured their graves and thousands of others beneath tangles of ivy, brush, and illegally dumped trash. Since June 2013, a small group of regular volunteers, along with many students and Richmond-area residents, have been working to reveal them, slowly uncovering not just long-buried headstones but an entire community. Lunch will be served. For details, visit http://www.facebook.com/EastEndCemeteryProject. Full text

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