student life

School shooting survivor meets with new living learning center

On April 16, 2007, senior Colin Goddard was late to his early morning French class.
Halfway through class, Goddard was shot four times. He was one of the 17 people wounded at the Virginia Tech shooting that day.  

Today he uses his personal story to advocate for stricter gun control laws. He is now the campaign manager of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

On Tuesday his story brought him to IU to talk to more than 50 students enrolled in Briscoe Quadrangle’s new Civic Leaders Living Learning Center.

Paul Helmke, director of the new Civic Leaders LLC and past president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said he met Goddard through his father after the Virginia Tech shooting. He contacted Goddard because he wanted to set the tone for the rest of the year for the students.

“While gun control was sort of the theme, the real theme was leadership,” Helmke said. “How do you take a personal tragedy, a national tragedy, and how do you turn that into fighting for something you believe in?”

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs is offering the LLC as a way to engage students interested in global, national and local policy issues such as healthcare, income inequality and gun control laws.

Throughout the year the students will have the opportunity to take smaller classes that show them how to become future policy makers, advocates and leaders in their own communities.

This semester, they will have many political and social guest speakers such as former congressman Lee Hamilton, U.S. Department Officer Jack Bobo, SPEA Alumni and others. At 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Shannon Watts – a Zionsville, Ind., mother who helped form Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America after the Sandy Hook school shooting – will talk to the Civic Leaders LLC students.

After graduation, Goddard decided to get involved in the Brady Campaign to inform others about U.S. gun policies and help change gun control laws at the state and federal level. In 2010, Goddard investigated the lack of background checks at gun shows in Living for 32, a documentary about how he turned his story into a position for advocacy in memorandum of his 32 colleagues who were killed.

Helmke had his students see the film before Goddard spoke to them at Briscoe. He said the whole focus of the LLC is to give students extra attention and opportunities.

“We expect you then to do more on campus when you’re here,” Helmke said. “And we expect after you graduate to go do it in whatever field interests you and whatever community you live in.”

Goddard emphasized to the students that the best way to get others to understand what needs to be changed in public policy is to put a human face to the problem.

“It’s a series of steps to get them off the couch and into the public square and in their congress member’s office to cause the laws to change or culture to change in this country,” Goddard said.

Freshman Josie Wenig said his testimony inspired her even more to get involved in public policy analysis.  

“It was just inspiring to see and hear one person’s story that one person can really make a difference,” Wenig said.

The Brady Campaign reported that nine out of 10 Americans agree that the country should have universal background checks, Goddard said. But he said the campaign, the largest national grassroots organization fighting to prevent gun violence, is still working to persuade Congress to pass a bill for tighter gun control laws.

“It starts with awareness, and it starts with the personal story, the human story that ultimately then gets to a better country,” Goddard said.

Follow Aaricka Washington on Twitter @aarickawash

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