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Virginia Tech Student Colin Goddard Returns to Campus, With Powerful Film

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Wednesday represents an important homecoming for a key member of our staff. Colin Goddard, Assistant Director of Federal Legislation for the Brady Campaign, will be in Blacksburg, Virginia for the first screening of the powerful documentary, Living for 32.

The film has earned critical acclaim and was selected to appear at the prestigious 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It's being shown on more than 20 college campuses and other venues around the country. But Wednesday's premiere will be one of the most significant, and certainly the most poignant, screenings to date. It takes place where it all started for Colin: Virginia Tech.

It was at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 that a dangerously mentally ill student armed with two semiautomatic weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition killed 32 students and teachers and injured 17 others before killing himself. It was the deadliest school shooting in our nation's history. Colin was shot four times but thankfully survived.

Through Colin's vivid recollections, news footage, police reports and interviews with other survivors and families of victims, the first half of Living for 32 takes us through the terrifying events of April 2007. But by going beyond simply documenting the horror of that day, Living for 32 puts human faces on our nation's continuing debate about guns. The documentary shows how real people and families are affected by our nation's reluctance to enact and enforce common sense gun laws.

While Colin's account of that terrible day is gripping, what happened afterward is inspiring. The film shows how this 25-year-old Virginia Tech grad is using his life-changing experience at Virginia Tech to help protect the lives of others. Through his hidden camera work at gun shows on behalf of the Brady Campaign, highlighted in Living for 32, Colin demonstrates how easy it is for anyone to purchase dangerous weapons at a gun show without a background check or basic identification.

This is chilling evidence of the immediate need to close the gun show loophole, which allows the irresponsible, untraceable sale of hundreds of firearms by "private sellers" without a Brady background check. As part of his work here at the Brady Campaign, Colin also shares his experiences and expertise by testifying before lawmakers on Capitol Hill and at statehouses across the country.

Whether a shooting happens at a Tucson Safeway store, a Columbine High School, or at a Youngstown State frat party as it did early Sunday morning, there's too much bloodshed in America because we make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns. Enough is enough!

This poised young man's dedication and enthusiasm inspire me. It is nearly impossible to comprehend the horror and the agony that Colin endured nearly four years ago. It is just as difficult to imagine having the strength to move on from that experience without being consumed by fear, anger, or depression. But move on in a profound and dynamic way is just what Colin continues to do daily -- despite being called "coward" and worse by so-called gun rights activists. I am extremely proud of Colin and appreciate the sacrifices he's making on behalf of all who, because of guns, have suffered and died.

Produced by Maria Cuomo Cole, a member of the Brady Campaign's Board of Directors, and directed by Kevin Breslin, Living for 32 is dedicated to not only to the 32 people who lost their lives in the Virginia Tech massacre but to the 32 people on average who are murdered by a gun every day in the United States.

For Colin, and for me, this all is a constant reminder of why we must work every day to enact common sense, life-saving gun laws in our country. We hope you'll find a way to see the film at one of its upcoming screenings or join us in the fight. Go to www.livingfor32.com

Living for 32
Virginia Tech
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
7:30 p.m.
The Lyric Theatre
135 College Avenue
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Paul Helmke is president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Follow the Brady Campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on The Brady Campaign site.)