Six years ago, I woke up your typical college student, went to class, was in the right place at the right time and then my whole life changed. I was shot 4 times by a gunman who killed 32 of my classmates and injured many more. I am living for the 32 lost that day and working to improve our gun laws to help protect others. I was profiled in a film, "Living for 32" showcasing the story of the massacre on my campus and following me and other activists inside gun shows with hidden cameras documenting how easy it is in America to buy guns without any ID, any paperwork or a background check — just a wad of cash.


Here's the film trailer:

Thank you for all the great questions and Hokie love! I've got to go but anyone with further questions can join me on Twitter at 4:00pm EST for our #gunchat hosted by @livingfor32!

Edit: 5:31pm - just hopping back on to see what questions rose to the top and want to answer a few.

Comments: 1382 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

InAComaDial999178 karma

How do you reconcile your activism with the fact that Seung-Hui Cho bought all of his weapons at legal gun stores and passed all the required background checks? He had a history of mental illness and treatment, but lied about it on those background check applications. Would you support making medical records a part of the background check process?

clg65330 karma

Cho only passed those checks because he record was missing from the NICS system, due to poor reporting by the state of VA. Virginia has now made a lot of improvements to reporting their records but it's not something that has been done across the country.

InAComaDial99947 karma

All of the reporting I have seen says that his background check came back clean, because he had no criminal history. Could you elaborate on what was missing and what improvements were made?

EDIT: never mind, you answered that here. Thanks.

clg653-1 karma

Cho was adjudicated by a judge to be a "danger to himself" due to mental illness. With that decision, it prohibits you from purchasing a firearm. Only because he was instructed to get out-patient therapy instead of in-patient therapy, his record was never sent to the national background check system (NICS). Now in VA, they send over both out-patient and in-patient records to NICS.

0000000000112-9 karma

So you advocate for universal background checks because a background check did not find mental health records? cool story bro, I am sure that will work

clg6531 karma

We need to improve 2 parts of the background check: 1) the # of records in the system and 2) the scope in which it's applied.

clam85533 karma

How long did it take for you to comprehend what was going on? I, truthfully, have had a very hard time in the past year comprehending that humanity is in fact capable of doing such horrible things. Was this something that you struggled with? Or was being there a true wake up call?

clg6533 karma

I came full circle with the situation when I was first shot in my left leg. That physical sensation, coupled with the smell of the propellant (gun powder), made me realize the situation I was in. I immediately went into shock and my whole body felt numb from head to toe which made everything else seem very surreal. I didn't "come to" so-to-speak until I was riding in the ambulance to the hospital about 25 minutes later. That's when the pain started to kick in and the reality of what I just witnessed set in.

rayray101017 karma

How many students were in your class? How many survived?

I was a freshman on lockdown in West Ambler Johnston when the Norris Hall shooting happened. I'm glad you were able to do something positive after something so horrible.

Thanks for doing this.

clg6532 karma

Out of a classroom of 17 people that morning, including the teacher, 10 were shot and killed, 6 were shot and injured, and 1 emerged physically unhurt. There were 2 other classmates who didn't come that day.

invisiblerain10 karma

What class were you in and who was your teacher?

clg6539 karma

I was in the French class and my teacher was the best French teacher I've ever had: Madame Couture.

gilburrito14 karma

Thank you so much for doing this AMA! I am a Hokie typing this from my room in West AJ (where the first shootings occurred), and since coming to Virginia Tech I have experienced a stronger feeling of community than I will ever be able to comprehend. Can you describe what the Hokie community was like before, and how it changed as a result of the tragedy? Did being a victim of the tragedy change your view/feelings of VT?

clg65329 karma

Everyone thought I would transfer... to UVA :) There was no chance of that in my mind. When I got out of the hospital I went back to my apartment in Foxridge and was overwhelmed with support from seemingly everyone I had ever met at VT. It was incredible and made me certain that I would get better, return to school, and finish. Every injured student from 6 years ago went back and now has their VT degree.

clg6531 karma

Thank you for all of the thoughtful questions today. If you agree with taking the reasonable step of requiring a background check for every gun sale, PLEASE contact your Senators TODAY and let them know. They need to hear from you.

Kalypso9890 karma

Hi Colin, thank you so much for doing this AMA. It takes a great amount of bravery and courage to do this, seeing as how just six years ago something so tragic happened in Blacksburg. My question is, why do you think this happened? Do you think everyone responded to the incident in proper time (cops, EMTs, etc.)? Were there any signs that this could have been stopped beforehand? Thank you and God bless.

clg653-8 karma

I think there are many reasons why this happened, but ultimately it was a combination of a young person who didn't get the help he needed + easy accessibility to firearms. I think the police responded well, I remember hearing them yelling outside from very early on trying to find a way in. I think the school administration could have done better in retrospect. They sent out an alert to the student body about 1.5 hrs after the shooting in the dorm, when I was already in class, they should have sent it out sooner.

ThinkRadical4 karma

That is a ridiculous amount of time. The alert should have come so much sooner. I hope that with today's rapid spread of information, using social media, websites and cellphones that people will be made aware almost instantaneously of any trouble in their surrounding area.

It hurts to think how it could have been different if your classes went on lockdown directly after the incident at the dorm occurred. But I don't want to think about the "what ifs". Instead I want to thank you for doing the great work you are to help protect other Americans from gun violence! :)

gilburrito8 karma

To give you an update on the VT Alerts system: In December 2011, Virginia Tech had an incident where a police officer was shot on-campus. A bystander used our emergency blue lights to report it (average response time is under 2:30). The alert sirens went on immediately, and texts/e-mails/phone calls were sent out within minutes. Each classroom has a clock that broadcasts such alerts. Everyone was on lock-down for about five hours. I never questioned my safety during the situation, or at any other time while attending VT. I was extremely impressed with how VT handled that situation, as well as other situations that were not direct threats to the community (weather, etc.).

clg6532 karma

I agree, they handled that situation much better. I was literally in the middle of a presentation in Brooklyn, NY to a group of high schoolers about the shooting in '07 when I heard about that shooting then saw VT in the news again. I jumped on the next train back to DC and let my phone ring itself dead from reporters calling for a comment/statement/interview. It was a terrible day.

BirdmanVT-1 karma

Hi Beal :) Keep on doing what you're doing man. Hope all is well!

clg653-4 karma

Thanks buddy!