Tears fill Colin Goddard’s eyes as he recalls the morning of April 16, 2007: the Virginia Tech massacre, the longest 10 minutes of his life.
“We had bullets coming through the door, and everybody hit the floor,” Goddard said. “He came into our room the first time, and you could just hear a constant bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Clip change. Bang. Bang. Bang. He never said anything.”
Goddard’s 9 a.m. French class was the third room targeted by Seung-Hui Cho, the student who killed 32 and wounded many others before committing suicide.
Almost four years later, Goddard has scars from three bullet wounds, a metal rod in his leg and memories that he said led him to speak out Tuesday against proposed Arizona legislation that would allow guns on college campuses.
Goddard said he couldn’t answer for sure whether anyone else having a gun might have made a difference at Virginia Tech. But introducing guns to college campuses now won’t make him feel safe, he added.
“So many people have told me to my face, ‘If I was there with you that day, I would have saved the lives of students all around you,’” he said. “That almost offends me.”
Thinking back, Goddard said his class was slow to realize what was happening. They attributed the bangs they heard from the hallway to construction noise from an adjacent building, and he didn’t truly understand until a bullet struck him in the left knee.
“When I felt the force of that bullet, when I felt the blood, when I smelled the propellant, that’s when I realized this guy’s killing people,” he said.
Introducing more guns would also prevent responding officers from distinguishing shooters from students, adding to an already chaotic environment, he said.
“You don’t think rationally,” he said. “You don’t understand what’s going on – it’s absolutely terrifying and crazy.”
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, authored SB 1467, which would prohibit colleges from adopting or enforcing bans on concealed weapons. He said the bill tries to address what he sees as the inherent problem with college gun bans: Shooters don’t follow the rules.
“When you create a gun-free zone, all you really do is create a self defense-free zone,” Gould said. “You need to be in charge of your own personal safety, and when we take away the ability to provide that safety, we do a disservice to people.”
Gould’s bill was headed to the Senate floor.
Among other firearms-related legislation proposed this session, a House bill that would allow community college and university faculty members to carry concealed firearms wasn’t heard in committee.
Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, who organized the event featuring Goddard, noted that Arizona college presidents and police chiefs oppose the legislation.
“If lax gun laws were going to make our society safer, you would think we’d be the safest state in the country,” he said.
Daniel Weichart, a part-time professor at Scottsdale Community College who attended the event, said allowing guns would only add tension to the already emotionally strained college environment.
“If this goes through, I may go back to the private institutions, where they can prevent this from happening,” Weichart said.