WASHINGTON --- A critically wounded Virginia Tech student started turning his personal experience into a campaign for the public good this past summer. By buying a small arsenal of assault weapons and handguns with cash at gun shows without Brady background checks - and with a hidden camera recording the transactions - Colin Goddard wanted to document how easy and unchecked it all was. His goal: to get Congress to close the loophole that allows many dangerous people to purchase dangerous weapons at gun shows without a Brady background check.
Today, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released a five-minute video with highlights of Goddard’s up close and personal experience with gun shows in states that don’t regulate private sales.
“It is time - actually, way past time - for America to close the loophole that allows people who can’t legally buy a gun from a gun dealer to literally buy one in the back corner of the same convention center,” said Colin Goddard, 24. “What happened to me at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 was horrible. But I’m determined to do something about it and turn this negative experience into a positive one.”
Teaming up with in-state residents to ensure that the buyers didn’t break the law, Goddard captured footage of shamefully easy gun purchases. (“There’s no tax! There’s no paperwork! That’s worth something!” hawked one seller.) The buyers didn’t even have to show a driver’s license or any ID. After each visit, Goddard and his companions turned the guns over to local police.
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“Colin Goddard is an amazing young man,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign. “And he has an amazing story to tell.”
Goddard was shot multiple times at Virginia Tech. He was so moved by his experience he became an activist for sensible gun laws. He joined the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign first as a volunteer, later as a staff member. Driven to tell his story firsthand, he was given a modest budget and a hidden camera and traveled to eight cities in five states, visiting gun shows in places where the state does nothing to require Brady criminal background checks for “private sales.”
Colin Goddard’s plea: that the United States Congress close the “gun show loophole” that enables unlicensed sellers to trade guns for cash with practically no questions asked. Bills have been introduced in the U.S. House, by Representatives Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Michael Castle (R-DE), and in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). “The Brady Campaign is committed to working with Colin Goddard and other allies to pass this legislation,” Helmke said.
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The Brady Campaign plans to share Goddard’s story with thousands of activists and urge them to share it farther. The goal is a viral campaign to advance efforts to pass legislation to close the gun show loophole. The campaign seeks to:
• Secure a significant number of co-sponsors of gun show loophole legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives;
Only seven out of 50 states have completely closed the gun show loophole. Ten other states have taken limited steps. The Brady Law requires criminal background checks of gun buyers at federally licensed gun dealers, but unlicensed private sellers are not required to do background checks. This loophole causes particular problems at gun shows, which give these unlicensed sellers a venue, advertising and customers. In most states convicted felons, domestic violence abusers, and those who are dangerously mentally ill can walk into any gun show and buy weapons from unlicensed sellers, who operate week-to-week with no established place of business, with no questions asked.
The Columbine killers used two shotguns, an assault rifle and a TEC-9 assault pistol to shoot 26 students in April 1999, killing 13. All four guns came from gun show sales. Their friend, Robyn Anderson, bought three of the guns for them from unlicensed sellers at a gun show. After the massacre, Ms. Anderson stated that had she been required to undergo a background check, she would not have purchased the guns.
Allowing dangerous people such as convicted felons and domestic abusers to buy guns at gun shows from unlicensed sellers without a Brady criminal background check threatens the safety of our families and communities.
“I’ve learned about the many issues that surround the shooting at Virginia Tech, including school policies and mental health issues,” Goddard said. “But what I’ve learned about our current gun laws is that they are inexcusable.” (Photo: Courtesy of Newsweek.)