In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newton, Conn., U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a San Mateo Democrat and a vocal advocate for gun control, has been appointed to a Democratic congressional task force that will study ways to prevent U.S. gun violence.
Speier was one of 12 vice chairs of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force announced Friday by its chairman, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, a Napa Democrat. All 12 vice chairs serve in the U.S. House.
“We can turn the corner on gun violence with bold leadership and action,” Speier said in a statement. “The victims of Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, Virginia Tech and Tucson deserve no less. It is time for Congress to enact common-sense violence prevention laws that keep assault weapons and high-capacity assault magazines out of our communities and require full background checks on all gun purchases.”
Speier was legislative counsel to U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, a South San Francisco Democrat, in 1978 when she accompanied him to investigate the People’s Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana. Ryan was assassinated, and Speier was shot five times at close range; in all, five people were killed. Speier still carries two of the bullets in her body. Since the Jonestown tragedy, she has striven to combat gun violence.
“It’s important to note that every day brings the equivalent of a mass murder when 33 people are killed in this country at the hands of guns,” Speier said. “Enough is enough. It’s time to put public safety and public health first.”
In the coming weeks, the task force will hold meetings and hearings to gather information about preventing gun violence. In early February, the task force is set to release its policy proposals.
In a statement, Thompson said the task force members will “bring unique ideas to the table as we work to reduce and prevent gun violence while also protecting the rights of law-abiding individuals without a history of dangerous mental illness to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, appointed Thompson as chair of the task force. He is a hunter, gun owner, Vietnam War veteran and former chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
“As we mourn the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, we must respond with more than words; we must take action,” Pelosi said in announcing Thompson’s appointment. “We must be able to tell our children that we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.”