(Excerpted from the Richmond Peace Education Center's newsletter)
Andrew (Andy) Goddard and Lori Haas, tireless advocates for preserving and strengthening Virginia’s gun laws, are the Richmond Peace Education Center’s Peacemakers of the Year for 2012. They were honored at the RPEC annual Membership Dinner on May 24, at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church.
Presentation of the Peacemaker awards was followed by a provocative panel discussion of the danger of a possible U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran.
Andy’s son Colin and Lori’s daughter Emily were among the 17 people wounded at the mass shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Both parents realized they needed to speak out on behalf of those who have been silenced forever by gun violence, as well as those who have been injured and traumatized. They have spent the past five years working to prevent gun violence both in Virginia and the United States.
Andy and Lori have defended sensible gun legislation such as Virginia’s recently-repealed One Handgun a Month law and the prohibition of guns on college campuses and houses of worship. They have fought the relaxation of other restrictions, such as permitting concealed carry in bars and restaurants. And they have pushed for additional protections such as closing the gun show loop-hole, which allows individuals to sell or buy weapons without background checks or other safeguards.
This year, despite strong public support (nearly 70% of citizens polled--including gun owners—supported retaining this important barrier to the bulk sales of hand-guns) and their best efforts, Virginia’s One Handgun A Month Law was repealed in the General Assembly. Lori and Andy had greater success in keeping a host of “Castle Doctrine” bills from moving through the General Assembly. These bills were similar to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that has dominated the news as a result of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
While a majority of the public supports stronger gun laws, this message has not yet reached a majority of Virginia’s lawmakers. RPEC’s honorees have spent countless hours studying proposed legislation, talking with lawmakers, and giving public presentations — using their roles as parents of Virginia Tech survivors to gain access to lawmakers and media.
Andy has served as president of the Richmond Million Mom March to Prevent Gun Violence since 2008; he volunteers with the Brady Campaign and supports his son Colin’s efforts with that organization.
Andy is also president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety, based in Norfolk.
Lori is on the board of the Virginia Center for Public Safety and helped develop and maintains the VACPS Speakers Bureau. She has worked with faith leaders on gun violence prevention initiatives in Richmond. In 2010, Lori and Andy collaborated with the Richmond Peace Education Center and area churches to modify this program for middle and high school students, resulting in the “No One is Bulletproof” youth forum.
RPEC Peacemakers (from left): Lori Haas; Adria Scharf, RPEC executive director; Andy Goddard, and Ellie Meleski, RPEC board chair.
(Photo by Anne-Marie McCartan)