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/
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SPARC’s teen summer musical “Oliver!” will be at the Henrico Theatre at 7:30 p.m. July 28-29 and at 2 p.m. July 29-30. The award-winning musical adaptation of the classic Dickens’ novel springs to life with some of the most memorable characters and songs ever to hit the stage. Book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. Tickets are $14. The July 20 performance will be sign-interpreted. For details and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.sparconline.org/tickets. Full text

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