The debate over gun control has persisted for decades and reached a certain peak in the cultural conversation—politicians on both sides are adamant about their positions and for the most part, steadfastly refuse to change their minds.
However, one lawmaker can claim a more personal connection to the debate: Jackie Speier, a congresswoman from California, actually survived being shot as a 28-year-old and recently spoke out about the experience.
Speier, a U.S. Representative for California’s 14thcongressional district, has dedicated much of her time to ending gun violence, primarily because of what she experienced as a young woman. She is the only sitting member of Congress to have been shot as a civilian.
Speier was a victim of what is now referred to as the ‘Jonestown Massacre.’ She was accompanying California Representative Leo Ryan to meet community organizer Jim Jones at a Guyanese commune, when Jones’s own security guards opened fire on her, along with other journalists and lawmakers. Speier was shot five times and required over ten surgeries to recover. Two bullets still remain lodged within her body.
The congresswoman’s traumatizing ordeal has allowed her to gain the upper hand over other members of Congress when discussing gun safety laws. She recounts an incident that occurred on the assembly floor when proposing an assault weapons ban in California’s legislature:
“During an exchange between me and one of my Republican colleagues on the assembly floor when I presented the bill, one of my colleagues got up and said, “Ms. Speier, I have a question for you. Have you ever shot an assault weapon?” And I said, “No, Assemblyman. But let me ask you a question: Have you ever been shot by an assault weapon?” And the place went kinda silent. The bill flew off the floor, and then Republican governor Pete Wilson signed it into law.”
Individuals such as Speier who have been fighting to increase gun safety for years are vitally important to the discussion surrounding gun control and gun reform. Her harrowing experience allows her to now possess a unique perspective on the issue that almost no other politician can claim. We should all be listening to her.
Banner Image Credit: Flickr, Daniel Chee