Virginia Tech shooting survivor shows documentary at NIU
DeKALB – Four years after he was shot four times, Colin Goddard still has a hard time telling his story.
The 25-year-old gun control activist said he paced nervously in the back of the Holmes Student Center auditorium where nearly 100 people watched “Living for 32,” the documentary that tells his story of surviving the campus shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007.
“I thought that besides Blacksburg ... the second place that the film would have the heaviest impact would be [Northern Illinois University],” he said.
The film follows Goddard as he revisits the building where he was shot by fellow student Seung-Hui Cho in Goddard’s French class. Ten of his classmates were killed, along with 22 others.
But the film also shows how Goddard moved on from that tragedy to work for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
He said the genesis of the film came at a fundraiser for the organization. It was one of the first times he spoke publicly about his experience.
Maria Cuomo Cole, the film’s producer, approached him after the speech and asked if he would be in a five-minute public service announcement.
“She said, ‘I’ve been involved with this issue for many years and I always thought if survivors of gun violence should share their stories and speak out, we should document that. We should get that on film,’” he said.
A five-minute grew into a 40-minute film featuring hidden camera footage taken by Goddard at gun shows across the country, showing how easy it is to purchase a weapon without a thorough background check.
One of the film’s central messages is a call for lawmakers to close the “gun show loophole” that legally allows these kind of transactions to happen.
Since then, Goddard has shown the film at the Sundance Film Festival and at college campuses across the country. He’s also appeared on numerous talk shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and written columns with his father for the Huffington Post.
He said talking about the shooting has made it easier to turn a traumatic event in his life into something positive.
“I don’t think I would be able to maintain what I’ve been doing if I had to physically tell this story, recounting the events every time, over and over,” he said.
After the film, Goddard spoke about the kind of gun control laws he would like to see enacted — closing the gun show loophole and banning weapons with large bullet capacity.
That can be a challenge with pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association critical of any attempt to add more restrictions to gun laws. Others argue that allowing college students to carry concealed weapons on campus could help prevent future shootings.
Goddard said that argument “almost offends” him because, he argues, it is impossible to say how anyone would react in an unexpected life-or-death situation.
But he adds he does not want to ban guns completely, only to fight for regulations that keep them out of the wrong hands.
The crowd included a few survivors of the Feb. 14, 2008, NIU shooting. It also included Mary Kay Mace, the mother of victim Ryanne Mace.
“I am very happy that he is here and that he lends his face, his voice and his heartbreaking story to a cause that is so close to heart,” she said.