The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


Young Leaders Display Courage, Dedication Despite Tremendous Odds in Fight to Keep College Campuses Safe From Gun Violence

Both touched by Virginia Tech tragedy, Colin Goddard and John Woods mobilize effort to defeat bills that would force Texas colleges and universities to allow dangerous loaded guns on campuses


Today, the power of youth action that has driven some of the most important social changes in U.S. history is on display in Texas as two young men mobilize an effort by students and other advocates to keep dangerous loaded guns off college campuses.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence announced today that Colin Goddard, Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs at the Brady Campaign, and John Woods, Director of Students for Gun-Free Schools in Texas, will lead a coalition of students, parents, college representatives, law enforcement and other activists from across the state of Texas in a day of lobbying at the Texas State Legislature.

Their goal is to convince lawmakers to reject a series of bills that would force Texas colleges and universities to allow concealed guns on college campuses. This isn't the first time Goddard and Woods have worked to prevent gun violence in Texas. Both safety advocates lobbied successfully to defeat a previous attempt to allow loaded guns on college and university grounds.

However, the effort is seemingly never-ending as some Texas lawmakers continue to push this radical and dangerous idea. Currently, the Texas Legislature is considering three bills (SB 354, HB 86 and HB 750) that would allow guns to be carried into classrooms, dormitories and other buildings on campus.

Sponsors of these bills, like SB 354 author state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, have argued that allowing loaded guns on campuses could help avert a tragedy like the one at Virginia Tech, but as survivors of that massacre, Goddard and Woods know that having an armed student body would only add to the threat.

Speaking on the steps of the State Capitol today, Goddard said many colleges on Texas match or exceed the 30,000-member student body on Virginia Tech, with UT-Austin boasting a total enrollment of around 50,000 students. By allowing students to carry weapons loaded guns on such a large campus, Goddard said the risk and potential casualties of another mass shooting would be all the greater.

"In 1963, a lone shooter armed with a 6.5 mm caliber rifle made Texas the site of one of the most notorious acts of gun violence in U.S. history," said Goddard. "But by allowing students to carry loaded guns on campus, this state is only setting the stage for more acts of reckless hate that could rival the shootings at Virginia Tech and Dallas. Our colleges should be safe havens, students should not have to feel their lives are at risk to receive an education."

Like the insurmountable odds facing the drivers of the Civil Rights Movement, today's movement to reduce gun violence in our country also faces a seemingly invincible foe: the gun lobby and its influence on elected officials who are either too willing to expand access to guns or too afraid to oppose the spread of dangerous weapons. That's what makes the involvement of young leaders like Goddard and Woods so crucial.

Both young men are passionate advocates for gun violence prevention having both been personally affected by the worst school shooting in our nation's history: the Virginia Tech massacre. On April 16, 2007, a dangerously mentally ill student, Seung-Hui Cho, armed with two semiautomatic weapons handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition moved from classroom to classroom on a killing spree. By the time it ended 32 students and teachers were dead and 17 others were injured.

Since that tragedy, Goddard and Woods have worked tirelessly to support reasonable gun restrictions designed to protect communities from this kind of senseless violence. Goddard was attending French class when he and his classmates heard gunfire erupt in the building. As the horrifying noise drew closer, Goddard called 911 but as he was making the call, the shooter burst into the classroom and ruthlessly fired upon the people inside. The gunman shot Goddard's left knee, right shoulder and both hips.

Finishing the 911 call Goddard had started, another student managed to give police enough information to get to the scene. However, by the time police broke through the barricades Cho had erected, he had taken his own life. Told that he might never walk again, Goddard endured surgeries to remove bullet fragments from his body as well as grueling physical therapy to regain his full mobility.

After returning to Virginia Tech to finish his degree, Goddard decided to devote his energies to fighting for common sense restrictions to keep weapons out of the hands of felons, the dangerously mentally ill and others who shouldn't have guns. Goddard's remarkable story is detailed in the acclaimed documentary "Living for 32." The 40-minute film highlights Goddard's work for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, including his videotaped hidden-camera investigation of the unregulated sale of dangerous weapons at gun shows.

"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," said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "This poised young man's dedication and enthusiasm inspire me."

John Woods was also a student attending Virginia Tech that terrible day in April 2007. After losing two friends in the tragedy, he launched his own remarkable effort to reduce gun violence. Woods, currently a graduate student at the University of Texas-Austin, is Director of Students for Gun Free Schools.

Dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings, Students for Gun Free Schools opposes efforts by states to force colleges and universities to allow loaded guns on college and university campuses. After completing his degree at Virginia Tech and enrolling in graduate school in Austin, Texas, Woods thought he was leaving the 2007 tragedy behind him. However, he was alarmed to find that Texas lawmakers were considering measures to allow teachers and students to carry concealed weapons guns on campus. Woods jumped into action leading a coalition of fellow students and other activists to defeat those bills.

"People think of colleges as just being classrooms, but there's a lot more going on here," Woods said. "We have hospitals on campus. In some cases there are preschools, sensitive labs where there are hazardous materials. Adding to the mix an unknown number of guns will not enhance a campus's safety, it will only erode it."

In 2009, The Austin Chronicle recognized Woods among its "Critic's Choice - Best of Austin" on behalf of his successful mobilization and lobbying campaign in the face of incredible odds. Combined effort In the case of Texas' efforts to expand the presence of guns, Goddard and Woods have fought this battle before. However this time they are fighting together. Facing an even tougher legislative challenge, they hope that their combined lobbying efforts will encourage Texas lawmakers to reduce rather than increase the potential for gun tragedies on college campuses across the state.

Goddard and Woods will devote the day to lobbying at the Texas Statehouse alongside students, teachers, police and others fighting to keep college campuses gun-free. They were joined at today's press conference by state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (HD-51); Scott Parks, student body president of UT-Austin; and Deborah Brown, chief of police at Southwestern University. Their coordinated effort is in collaboration with the Texas Brady Campaign Chapters, Students for Gun-Free Schools, the College Democrats at Texas State and UT-Austin's University Democrats.

Brady United formerly known as The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative and grassroots affiliate, the Brady Campaign and its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence. We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.