Champions of Change
John Woods, Ph.D., graduated from Virginia Tech in May 2007, just weeks after the worst mass shooting in American history. As a doctoral student in molecular biology at the University of Texas at Austin, he became involved in the gun violence prevention movement after members of the Texas Legislature tried to use the Virginia Tech tragedy to push an ideological agenda having nothing to do with campus safety: forcing colleges and universities to allow guns in classrooms. Texas violence prevention advocates successfully organized against the so-called “campus carry” bills in three consecutive legislative sessions and several special sessions, despite a majority of Texas lawmakers registering as sponsors of the legislation. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, Dr. Woods helped found Texas Gun Sense, a state-focused educational charity which promotes a fact-based dialogue on gun policy, and which incidentally coined the term “gun sense.” In its first eighteen months, Texas Gun Sense has worked to educate lawmakers and the public on universal background checks, as they would apply to Texas. Dr. Woods now serves on Texas Gun Sense’s advisory board, and is a post-doctoral fellow at West Virginia University’s Applied Space Exploration Laboratory and the West Virginia Robotic Technology Center.