Illinois Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski is calling for gun law reform after surviving the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting that left four people dead.
Lipinski recently spoke out for the first time about fleeing the gunman in northern California last Sunday.
Back home in his district, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski said the distance between Illinois and California cannot erase an experience that the lawmaker calls surreal.
Lipinski and his wife Judy decided to attend the Garlic Festival in Gilroy while they were on a trip in northern California. A lover of garlic, Lipinski said he's always wanted to attend the festival.
"I thought, this is a great opportunity, we are there. Let's go," he said.
About 20 minutes before the festival closed, shots rang out. At first, the congressman thought it was fireworks. But after 25-30 shots, Lipinski realized that he was in the middle of a mass shooting.
Lipinski said he and his wife ran, following the crowds. Festival staff corralled people into an amphitheater, where the Lipinskis stayed for over an hour, listening to sirens. Eventually, they boarded a bus and were driven to their car a couple of miles away.
"Still didn't feel safe until we got in our car and started driving away," Lipinski said. "And at that time, we turned the radio on and we hear that there were three people who were killed."
A 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were among the dead, as well as the gunman, 19-year-old Santino William Legan.
The Santa Clara County coroner's office recently said that Legan killed himself. The finding contracts earlier police reports that officers fired the fatal shot, according to the Associated Press.
Lipinski is hoping to use his experience to convince his Capitol Hill colleagues to pass "common sense" gun laws. The congressman said he supports universal background checks and limiting the size of ammunition clips.
The Gilroy festival shooter's gun was bought in Nevada, but it was not legal in California. The shooter was also using a 30-round detachable magazine.
Lipinski said he and his wife are thankful to be alive.
"To think, forever I will be someone who escaped from the Gilroy shooting," Lipinski said.
Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski calls for gun law reform after surviving Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting