By Kelli Arena
The shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University had one thing in common - Eric Thompson. He is one of the biggest online gun dealers in the country. He sold a gun to one shooter and equipment to the other. [cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/CRIME/04/16/vt.one.year.later/art.vt.community.candles.gi.jpg caption="A year later, Virginia Tech students say they have learned about themselves and their community."]
You'd probably never know that, though, had Thompson himself not made those facts public. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is specifically prohibited by law from releasing that kind of information.
Thompson has been unusually public about a lot of things since those tragic shootings, in particular his remedy for dealing with gun violence.
"My answer to this problem is let people protect themselves," says Thompson.
That's right, more guns, or at least the threat of more guns. Thompson is pushing for more states to allow its citizens to conceal and carry, and he supports allowing students to carry guns on college and university campuses.
"At the NIU shooting there was three-minute response time. Unfortunately that was about thirty seconds or two minutes and thirty seconds too late. And the police did a fantastic job, but you can't stop it, if there is no way to stop it," Thompson argues.
Thompson has even set up an online forum to argue for his ideas: http://www.gundebate.com.
"I wish there were people from both sides that would come,” he says. “Currently it's more of the guns rights people on the website."
He says it's not about selling guns but rather, about "educating" people.
That's a sentiment that's hard for some to swallow. Elilta Habdu barely survived the Virginia Tech shootings. She still has a bullet lodged near the base of her brain.
"To use us our tragedy, our pain, and our suffering to push the gun debate, that's shameful. That's torturing us when you do that,” says Habdu. “You're insulting the memories of 32 people who died needlessly because someone brought a gun onto campus. You know, he's making a profit out of our suffering and God knows how many more guns he's selling to people and how many lives are being wrecked because of it."
Actually, Thompson says business is quite good and steadily getting better. He says he is sorry for victims like Habdu but has no regrets.
"I really didn't have time to think about it... all the laws were followed,” he says. “The important thing to focus on is how we can prevent this in the future."
It's hard to cast Thompson as a villain. His long wavy blonde hair and laid-back nature make him seem more surfer than gun dealer. And his gun shop looks more like an Internet start up. He is the father of young children and says he'd like them to know how to use a gun when it's appropriate.
He plans to keep pressing his case and to keep selling guns.
"I'm not going to back down,” says Thompson. “I'm not even interested really in a compromise."
Visit "Remembering Virginia Tech" for CNN.com's special anniversary coverage.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with