The Senate is poised to vote Wednesday on its third piece of gun rights legislation this year – and gun control advocates are racing to shore up any wavering Democrats who might join Republicans in supporting the measure.
The Republican-sponsored Thune Amendment, attached to the Defense Authorization Bill, would allow individuals to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the United States that permits carrying concealed weapons, provided they are legally registered.
Colin Goddard is lobbying against the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), that would allow people to carry concealed firearms into other states, so long as they "...have concealed carry permits from the state in which they reside."
Goddard is not a typical lobbyist; he is a survivor – a student at Virginia Tech the day Seung-Hui Cho burst into his classroom and opened fire. Goddard was shot four times. Thirty-two other students died before Cho killed himself.
Now, Goddard is in Washington to tell lawmakers that even if he'd had a gun he could not have stopped Seung-Hui Cho.
"When I smelled that gunpowder, that's when I knew what was happening," Goddard recounted. "I knew there were other students in my class who were sitting in their chairs to be able to effectively respond to someone coming in a door like that guns blazing you need millisecond response time. Even trained police officers can't do that," he says.
He argues the proposed law would make it easier for unbalanced people to carry guns anywhere they choose, including states with more stringent concealed gun laws. And he isn't the only critic. Mayors from 450 cities took out an ad in USA Today urging the Senate to vote down the amendment.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent, is fiercely opposed to the measure. "What it would do is put an enormous number of guns on the streets and it takes away states' rights," he says.
But The National Rifle Association says carrying a gun is a constitutional right, as well as a matter of personal safety.
"At the scene of the crime, there are only two people there, the criminal and the victim," says NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. "The victim always ought to have a right to own a firearm and have a firearm to protect themselves if they choose."
Case in point: last year, a bank customer, legally carrying a concealed weapon near Detroit, thwarted a bank robber who claimed to have a bomb. But gun control proponents say for every hero, there are many villains. Like Richard Poplawski – who legally owned guns and used them to kill three Pittsburgh police officers. And Seung Hui Cho – who bought guns legally and killed 32 others at Virginia Tech.
What do you think? Should concealed weapons be allowed across state lines?