Four unique voices add to gun debate with Biden

Jesse Rodriguez / Morning Joe
Jesse Rodriguez / Morning Joe

Four unique voices in the gun control debate will sit down with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday on Morning Joe to discuss guns in America and the changes the country needs following the tragedy in Newtown. Each has a distinct and important voice in the national debate—from the survivor of a mass shooting to the instructor who teaches domestic violence victims to shoot.

Colin Goddard

Just before 10 a.m. on a chilly, April morning, Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui burst into Colin Goddard’s French class and started shooting. Goddard dialed 9-1-1, but his phone flew out of his hand when a bullet hit his body. The call still went though, transmitting the sounds of a massacre. Eleven students and Goddard’s professor were killed; Goddard was shot a total of four times: in the knee, both hips, and right shoulder. Three of those bullets are still in his body.

“I just looked on the ground and acted like I was dead,” he said the day after the shooting. “I’ve taken three bullets and I’m still here. So I plan to keep going.”

Today, he is an assistant director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Goddard, who lives in Washington, D.C., shares his story as a way to advocate for gun control measures such as the ones up for a vote in the Senate on Thursday.

Dr. Cedric Alexander

After 20 years as a cop, Cedric Alexander went back to school to study mental health. Too many of the calls he responded to as a cop had a mental health component, and he wanted to be better equipped to handle them. After earning a Phd, built an emotionally-disturbed persons response team in Rochester, N.Y., combining mental health training with enforcement techniques.

“When you have officers who have a little better insight to these issues it allows them to do their job a little better, which results in less injuries to both officers and people,” Alexander has said.

Last week, he became chief of police in Dekalb County, Ga., and already, he is deep in an investigation of the shooting death of an 18-year-old boy in his county.

Tina Wilson-Cohen

Tina Wilson-Cohen wants to protect gun rights for a group of owners she says are under-represented: women. An NRA-certified gun instructor and former Secret Service agent, Wilson-Cohen founded She Can Shoot, a women-only shooting course, which caters to the surge of female gun owners. The group boasts 3,000 members nationwide.

Wilson-Cohen says 90% of women join the group because “they’ve been a victim at one point of their life, of stalking or date rape or domestic violence, or they have just felt so vulnerable.” She often uses pink targets—it “has a calming, soothing effect” to counteract the intimidating nature of gun ranges.

Wilson-Cohen, who teaches in Virginia, fears gun control bills will curb the rights of women who are trying to protect themselves.

Richard Feldman

As president of the Independent Firearm Owner Association, Richard Feldman argues that expanding mental health checks and cutting down on crime will do far more to cut down on gun violence.

Referring to the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., he noted that “Adam Lanza had no criminal record, was never involuntarily committed for mental illness and could have passed a background check, despite his well-documented history of mental problems.

“Our mental health screening—and treatment—must be expanded. He was beyond the reach of background checks due largely to government-imposed privacy protections.”

Before leading the firearm association, Feldman worked as a lobbyist for the NRA and was a key force in behind-the-scenes negotiations that secured the 1997 deal between gun manufacturers and the White House over putting child safety-locks on firearms.

Tune in Thursday morning to hear the full interview with Vice President Biden and hear what Goddard, Alexander, Wilson-Cohen, and Feldman have to say.