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Jonestown Massacre Survivor Speier Named To Gun Control Task Force

SAN MATEO (KCBS) - A Bay Area lawmaker who survived a massacre was appointed Friday to the Congressional task force on gun control created in response to the Connecticut elementary school killings.

Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier will serve on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force led by Rep. Mike Thompson of Napa charged with developing a plan to prevent more mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.

"This issue is both personal and professional for me," said Speier, reflecting on her injuries decades ago in Jonestown, Guyana.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

2 Bay Area Representatives On House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

In 1978, Speier was shot five times as her boss, Congressman Leo Ryan, was assassinated. She still carries two bullets in her body from that harrowing experience which has informed Speier's entire subsequent political career, including her passion for reducing gun violence.

"I owe it to them, to their memories and to all who have been victims of this kind of abhorrent activity, to speak up," she said.

The task force has one month to develop a comprehensive proposal for preventing gun violence. Speier hopes it will include a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips, a universal background check system that applies to third party and private sales, and stiffer penalties for gun trafficking.

"We are not talking about taking guns away from anyone. The Second Amendment is there. It is protected. It protects every man and woman and their right to own a gun. It does not, and should not, give people the authority to carry assault weapons that are there for purposes unrelated to recreational hunting and the like."

Chairman Mike Thompson is an avid hunter.

Speier said she is optimistic there will be bipartisan support for the legislation that emerges from the task force's work.

"The moms and dads in this country have got to rise up and make Congress get a backbone. It is time for us to stop quivering at the likes of the NRA," she said, adding that it shouldn't take a schoolhouse slaughter to shock the country into doing something to stop the violence.

"Every day in this country, 32 people are murdered and victims of gun violence. That's a mass shooting in this country every single day."

The task force will also consider ways to improve mental health care.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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