The Coalition Against Gun Violence will present Colin Goddard, Virginia Tech massacre survivor and assistant director of federal legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., as its featured speaker at its 16th annual gala celebration at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, May 1 in the Cabrillo Room of the Hotel Mar Monte, 1111 E. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara.

Colin Goddard became an advocate to reduce gun violence after he survived being shot four times during the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

Colin Goddard became an advocate to reduce gun violence after he survived being shot four times during the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. (Coalition Against Gun Violence courtesy photo)

The charge for the event, including lunch, is $70 for members, $80 for nonmembers and $90 to join CAGV ($25) plus luncheon. For reservations and more information, call 805.564.6803.

On April 16, 2007, Goddard, age 21, a student at Virginia Tech, was shot four times by Seung-Hui Cho in his classroom. Thirty-two people died and 17 more were wounded on campus during the shooting massacre.

After spending two years recovering from his wounds, Goddard returned to Virginia Tech to complete his studies. Two years later, in April 2009, he watched another shooting rampage in Birmingham, N.Y., when 13 people were shot and the killer committed suicide.

“I was watching the body count rise, and I was like, this is just the same stuff that is happening to another family now,” Goddard said. “I was like, I’ve got to get involved. I’ve got to do something about this.”

He decided to become an activist in the effort to reduce gun violence in the country.

“I will always believe I was in the right place at the right time in class at 9 a.m. And despite the horror, I survived as one of the luckier ones,” Goddard said. “For 32 Hokies who were lost that day, and for the 32 Americans who are lost everyday to gun murders, I‘ve decided to devote this time in my life to making a difference, so their memories might be honored and the damage to our society lessened. Many people say we can’t or shouldn’t improve the gun laws in this country. I’m part of the next generation; I reject that premise, and I say we can and should do better.”

CAGV is also co-sponsoring with Campus Democrats a free showing of Living for 32, his award-winning documentary, with Goddard available for a question-and-answer session, at 7 p.m. Monday, May 2 at UCSB.

Following tradition, the “Bell Ceremony” held to honor those who have lost loved ones to gun violence will close the event. Goddard will ring the bell 32 times, one for each student killed that day. We will honor the memory of those killed at the post office massacre in 2006 in Goleta. People in the community who have lost a family member or friend to gun violence are invited to attend and participate.

The Coalition Against Gun Violence is a nonprofit coalition comprised of 40-member organizations, united against gun violence and committed to creating a safer community for Santa Barbara County residents through its educational programs and advocacy for effective local, state and national policies and legislation.

— Toni Wellen is chairwoman of the Coalition Against Gun Violence.