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How a father turned tragedy into activism

Andrew Goddard with megaphone
(Image: VPM News)

It was a Monday morning when Andrew Goddard saw news of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. Naturally, he worried as his son, Colin attended VT. He waited for news and soon heard that his son was in the hospital. Colin had been shot four times. The shooting claimed the lives of 32 people and 17 were injured.

As Goddard sat with Colin in the hospital, he asked himself how the shooting could have been prevented. Soon after Colin’s recovery Goddard and his son went to work for organizations advocating to strengthen gun laws to reduce violence.


Andrew Goddard: It was a Monday morning. My mother-in-law was visiting and she had the news on because she was concerned about the weather. She was going to be traveling back to New Jersey. And she called me into the room and said, "There's been a shooting at Virginia Tech." And I was quite concerned because obviously, my son was down at Virginia Tech. This is Colin graduating high school in front of the pyramids in Egypt. Colin is a really good kid. He was never any trouble when he was growing up. He was always into sports. He's a real team player. And I began to think, well, if this is happening at Tech, he would call and tell me that he's okay.

The not telling is that my son didn't know anything about it, so he went to class. He'd been shot four times. One of them was a through the body. It had gone across his chest, into his armpit, and out of his shoulder. The other three were bullets were still inside, as they are today. And I remember thinking, it could've been so much worse. We could be looking for a funeral home, for buying a coffin and finding a plot and asking for a headstone. It changed me because when I was sitting looking at him in the hospital and thinking about his injuries, I wasn't sure how much it was going to change his life. But I kind of said, "Well, if he gets through this and he can walk and it doesn't ruin his life for him, then I'll try my damnedest to make sure that another parent doesn't have to sit by their son's bedside in the same circumstances."

At that point, I'd already realized that there were many things that could've been done to have prevented that tragedy. And I began to realize that, well, somebody needs to speak up about that. Guns don't protect people. They should and they could, but in practice, they don't. And the people don't get that. We tried public demonstrations, marches. We, at one point, did a lot of lie-ins. Then there is demonstrations outside the NRA headquarters, which get a lot of press. The idea is to get people to understand that what they think they know about guns is not necessarily the truth, and what they don't know about guns is probably what's going to get 'em killed. I spent 12 years speaking out and getting no luck, no results, but in '20 and '21, we did get, people had been listening, and we get the stars aligned so that we could get legislation passed. And now, people say, "Well, why don't you stop now? You've gotten some legislation." We didn't get enough passed. There's still lots of things that need to be tidied up and cleaned up to make us safer. Activism is taking your passion and turning it into change.