Virginia Tech massacre revisited showing of in 'Living for 32'

Two individuals whose lives were changed forever by the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 came to Mason on Thursday to speak about their experiences and fight to change the country's gun control laws.

As part of a national tour, Colin Goddard and Omar Samaha stopped at Mason to show the documentary, "Living for 32," a film dedicated to the 32 people who died in the massacre. The Department of Criminology and the Film and Media Department sponsored the event.

Colin Goddard was one of the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre on April 16, 2007. He was one of seven students to survive in his class of 17. He was shot four times by the gunman before the authorities came.

“By speaking out, I put a face to gun violence. I make it real for people. If we do not improve our laws after mass shootings then we will be doomed to repeat them,” Goddard said.

Omar Samaha was the brother of one of the students in Goddard's class; his sister Reema Samaha did not survive the shootings.

“It is amazing to me that people only will listen to people who have experienced a tragedy. No one is immune to gun violence, and I don’t want anyone else to experience what I have,” said Samaha.

Goddard and Samaha have worked with the Brady Campaign and Fix Gun Checks to help prevent potential shooters from purchasing guns in the United States in the future.

The Brady Campaign is on a national tour from New York to California, to raise awareness and gain support of the bill HR 2324 to close the gun show loophole, which allows anyone to buy or sell guns at a gun show, without permits or official background checks.

The organization Fix Gun Checks works to change the background check policies and to force states to submit mental health records on a federal level to prevent future gun violence.

Seung-Hui Cho, the Virgina Tech student who went on to be the gunman in the 2007 campus shooting, was originally said to have had two background checks and be cleared when buying his weapons. After the shooting, investigators found that Cho had mental health records stating he was mentally unstable and a threat to himself and others, but his mental health records seemed to have not been filed in the state of Virginia prior to the shooting.

“Changing the system for background checks are the lowest hanging fruit and the first step that most reasonable people can support,” Goddard said.

According to Fix Gun Checks and the Brady Campaign, the national updates of mental health records are not being filed in most states due to privacy laws or forms not matching up correctly. Sometimes less than five percent of mental health records are filed. These organizations are looking for a way on a federal level to insist that these records be dealt with more efficiently.

“We are not trying to take away anyone’s second amendment rights, were just trying to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Samaha said.

The documentary showed undercover footage at gun shows in Ohio and Virginia where Goddard bought multiple firearms. The law currently allows unlicensed suppliers to sell their weapons without conducting a background check on whether the buyer is a convicted felon or has a history of mental illness. Goddard in a few cases said he forgot his ID, but was sold the guns anyway.

“If you believe in the statement that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, then we should be checking those people,” Goddard said.

The Brady Campaign and Fix Gun Checks had the petition for bill HR 2324 to be passed at the event for students and faculty to sign. Goddard said they have over a quarter million signatures and are trying to get more people to sign the petition during their national tour.



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