"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he would hear, one navy blue suit nodding to another.
They would listen to what Colin Goddard had to say, shake his hand, then open the door for the next Washington lobbyist or constituent.
See, Goddard doesn't really warrant a second glance on Capitol Hill. He's a tall, well-spoken, broad-shouldered 25-year-old with a good suit and purposeful handshake. Plus, the arguments he was peddling on sensible gun control had been heard before.
But as Goddard was giving his earnest, wonky spiel about banning the kind of magazines that Jared Loughner allegedly used to spray gunfire in Tucson or requiring background checks on people who buy weapons at gun shows, those listening didn't know there were three bullets painfully worming their way through his body.
If he wriggled in his seat too much, it hurt. And if you touched his skin in a certain spot, you could feel the outline of one of the 9mm hollow-points poking through.
So after trying to play it straight for a while - just another young climber doing his time in the marbled halls of Congress - Goddard realized that he had to speak up about why he cared so deeply about this issue.
"The whole dynamic changed once I told them," Goddard said.
He told them what it felt like to be in French class at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, conjugating verbs one minute, then trapped in what looked like a bloody war movie the next.
He told them how it feels to be shot four times: left knee, left hip, right shoulder, right hip. (No pain at first. Just the trickle of blood.)
He told them what it's like to see a pile of bodies so high the police can't open the door.
And he told them that the 32 people killed at his college that day by Seung Hui Cho might still be alive if it hadn't been so easy for Cho to get the semiautomatic handguns he used.
Gun control activists are often grieving parents, a Million Moms marching. Rarer among their ranks: a 6-foot-3 guy with a high and tight haircut and an easy way with a shotgun.
Goddard's a former ROTC student. He's a sportsman. Three months after he was shot at Virginia Tech, he went wild-duck hunting in Madagascar. His knee hurt a little. But firing a shotgun at Daffy? No problem.
He went on with his life: graduation, internships, job.
But when an oceanography class at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb was interrupted on Valentine's Day 2008 by a graduate student who went off his medication and fired three pistols and a shotgun into the stadium-style lecture hall, killing six, Goddard's mind went right back to that day in French class.
"I was glued to the TV watching it all. Minute by minute, reliving it all," he said in an interview this week.
And that's how he wound up taking a job at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
"I didn't even know who Jim Brady was," he said. "My generation doesn't even know about Jim Brady," the press secretary who was shot and partially paralyzed during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. "But this is my generation's issue. We are the ones who grew up doing gunfire attack drills in class. Why shouldn't we do something about this?"
He has gone undercover at gun shows all over the nation, his hidden camera capturing how easy it is to buy an assault rifle from someone for $400, no identification necessary.
"It's like buying a TV. Or a sofa," he said.
Apparently, that's not enough for the lawmakers from both parties who are ignoring the bill introduced in the House this week by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) that aims to limit the high-capacity magazines used in these mass shootings.
Come on, now. If you're not going to listen to Goddard - a guy who knows guns and likes to shoot them, who hunts, who walks around with bullets in his body - then what will it take, lawmakers?
When are you going to stop saying "yeah, yeah, yeah" and really listen to what the folks fighting for sensible gun control are saying?
Maybe watching a movie about it will help. Goddard's journey from college student to gun control advocate was made into a documentary, "Living for 32," that will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival next week. Produced by Maria Cuomo Cole and directed by Kevin Breslin, the documentary is on the short list for an Oscar, too.
The timing for the film couldn't be better, given the shootings in Tucson.
Goddard was furious that day. And he asked the question we all should be asking.
"How many is it going take? How many?"
"I'm sitting here watching all those images again. The ambulances. The people crying. The police racing. The flowers. The candles," he said, sitting back in his chair and looking up at the ceiling. "How many is enough?"
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