PORTLAND – When Colin Goddard got up on the morning of April 16, 2007, and walked to his intermediate French class at Norris Hall on the campus of Virginia Tech, he was just another college student.

Today, the 25-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., travels around the country advocating for stricter gun sale laws. His goal is to prevent another massacre like the one at Virginia Tech that day, when 32 faculty members and students were killed.

Goddard, who was shot four times and still has bullet fragments in his body, is now assistant director of federal legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He was the featured speaker Wednesday night at the 11th annual Buzz Fitzgerald Award dinner, named for the former head of Bath Iron Works who died in 2002.

The dinner at the Italian Heritage Center was hosted by Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.

“I feel fortunate. I’ve stopped saying lucky,” Goddard said in an interview before his presentation.

Goddard and six other students in his French class survived the attack by Sueng-Hui Cho. His teacher, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, and nine other students were shot to death.

Cho, who had been diagnosed with a mental illness, should never have been allowed to buy a handgun, said Goddard, whose mission is to close the loopholes that in most states allow private gun sales at gun shows without background checks.

Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence invited Goddard to speak because he shares the group’s goals.

“We do not advocate taking guns away from people. We just want the state to enforce existing laws,” said Tom Franklin, president of the organization. “If you buy a gun from L.L. Bean or the Kittery Trading Post, you have to undergo a background check. But if you buy a gun from Uncle Henry’s, you don’t.”

“We’re not anti-gun, we’re anti-gun in the hands of criminals,” Franklin said.

Goddard hopes he can change public opinion by sharing his experience.

When Cho entered his classroom, Goddard said, “there really was nowhere to go. You had to play dead and act like you weren’t there.”

Goddard was shot above his left knee, in his left hip and his right hip, and in the chest.

Police arrived eventually, but had difficulty getting into the classroom because bodies blocked the door. Goddard learned later that Cho killed himself.

Goddard said states should implement a system that requires a background check that includes mental health records, domestic violence arrests and felony convictions.

Last year, with a hidden camera in his shirt, Goddard visited gun shows across the United States, including one in Bangor, to document how easy it can be to buy a weapon.

His video, which can be found on YouTube, shows Goddard buying an AK-47 assault rifle from a private seller in Ohio, who told him to have fun with it. No background check or identification was needed.

“We can do something about violence in this country,” Goddard said. “I know we can do better.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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