Young Activists Defeat Every Bill to Get Guns on Campus
By Paul Helmke
On April 16, 2007, Colin was a student at Virginia Tech when he was shot four times by a mentally disturbed armed classmate who killed 32 fellow students and faculty.
Colin survived his wounds that day, and has become an eloquent activist for sensible gun laws in this country. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Colin’s story here:
All over America, ordinary citizens and elected officials have been listening to his story.
One of the issues Colin has spoken most forcefully about is an effort by the gun pushers to force colleges and universities to accept loaded, concealed firearms on their campuses.
In 2009, Colin teamed with other young people, college and university faculty and administrators, and campus police chiefs to fight these proposals in state legislatures across the country.
In one battle after another, the gun lobby was defeated after elected officials heard the arguments of new groups like Students for Gun Free Schools and young leaders in the gun violence prevention movement such as Colin, his friend Lily Habtu of Virginia – a fellow survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting who still carries bullet fragments in her jaw; John Woods of Texas, who lost his girlfriend at Virginia Tech; Brian Roach of Missouri, and hundreds of other young activists who were instrumental in defeating these ridiculous and dangerous proposals.
Although gun lobby-backed legislation was introduced in 12 states in 2009, not a single “guns on campus” bill was enacted into law, including failed proposals in Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana.
In fact, since the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, the gun lobby has suffered 34 consecutive defeats in trying to pass such legislation. In addition, Colorado State University reversed its previous policy and now prohibits guns on its campuses.
Andy Pelosi, director of the organization Gun Free Kids, had it right when he explained, “There comes a point where the gun lobby’s agenda just becomes too extreme for state lawmakers to support. Most lawmakers simply don’t want to have to explain the fact that they risked the safety of college students just to appease the radical ideology of the gun lobby.”
Colin Goddard has been a big part of this fight, as he personally campaigned in Missouri, wrote letters to Louisiana state legislators, and published op-eds in major Texas newspapers. For example, in an opinion column for the Dallas Morning News explaining why Texas should reject a “guns on campus” bill under consideration there last spring, Colin recalled that when the shooting started on April 16, 2007:
M]y whole class thought it was construction noise. Then I thought the killer was a police officer. I barely had time to make the  phone call. Anyone who thinks I could have gotten to a weapon and shot somebody I never fully saw watches too many movies. Instead of putting more guns in that classroom two years ago, I would work toward removing the two that were there, in the hands of the shooter. Guns on campus were the problem two years ago, not the solution. And we have to solve the problem, not make more of them.
Legislators in Texas, Missouri and Louisiana listened to this courageous young man. It’s time for more sensible politicians to put these “guns on campus” bills away for good.
Instead, elected officials should focus on another effort that Goddard and other young leaders have been advocating for: closing the loophole that allows dangerous people to buy assault weapons, semi-automatic pistols and other firearms at most gun shows from “private sellers” without first passing a Brady criminal background check.
I’m grateful that 2009 was the second straight year when common sense policies on college campuses were upheld without exception.
We need to take more sensible steps to reduce gun violence in 2010. That would make for a happier new year for us all.