39 Years Later, Congresswoman Still Remembers Jonestown Shooting

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A shooting Wednesday morning at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia has some leaders calling for more security.

Four people were shot and one was injured today, including a leading Republican congressman.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) was shot nearly 40 years ago and spoke to CBS13 about experiencing this kind of violence, first-hand in the wake of a shooting that wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-New Orleans)

“Having been shot five times was a horrific experience and it stays with you the rest of your life,” Speier said.

The shooting on Wednesday happened during an innocent baseball game in Alexandria, Va. Gunshots rang out and Scalise, along with four others, were taken to the hospital. Speier said she thinks is it’s unacceptable that this kind of attack happened in a place that’s supposed to be a safe space for children.

“There’s a palpable angst that exists in this country right now that has been fueled by a lot of different people and a lot of different institutions,” she said. “We’ve got to do some soul searching I think.”

Hearing the news took her back in time.

On November 18, 1978, Speier had just made the trip to Guyana with her boss Rep. Leo Ryan. The two were visiting Jonestown cult leader Jim Jones. But a seemingly peaceful meeting quickly changed when she and several others were gunned down on an airstrip. Ryan died at the scene, while Speier spent months recovering.

“I feel the same sense of hopelessness that I think I felt when it happened 39 years ago,” Speier said.

She says Wednesday’s shooting is a reminder that Americans need to create a better environment.

“I just hope we can find a way to bring a sense of realization that what we’re doing is not making us safer,” she said.

According to Gun Violence Archive, there have been 154 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year. In 2016, there were 387 — more than one shooting per day for the entire year.

“It’s only in the United States that these types of shootings keep happening over and over again,” said Bill Durston, President of Americans Against Gun Violence. “Now is the time to enact stringent gun control measures like every other civilized country in the world.”

Typically, Speier says only the speaker, the majority leader, and the two whips have security. But the other 400-plus members of Congress do not.

“When large numbers of us are gathered together, we become essentially a target and maybe we need to develop greater security measures,” Speier said.

Speier described a touching moment during a congressional security briefing Wednesday morning. Democrats and Republicans held hands while praying for the shooting victims.

She doesn’t want any Americans to live in fear and she plans to attend Thursday’s charity baseball game in Washington.

More from Macy Jenkins
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