A Congresswoman's Nightmare

By Gabe Pressman
|  Friday, Jan 14, 2011  |  Updated 6:48 AM EDT
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A Congresswoman's Nightmare

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Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) is a strong opponent of new gun control laws. Her life and family was personally touched by gun violence.

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Every time there is a senseless shooting she feels the pain again.

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy has never forgotten the horrible day in 1993 when her husband was gunned down on a Long Island Railroad commuter train. He died. Her son, Kevin, was severely wounded.

"My heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones in Tucson,” she told me. “Every time there is another mass shooting I re-live the horror in my own life, and I try harder to pass legislation that may help us  avoid or diminish the chances of having incidents like this in the future.”

It’s a tough road. While she has a few supporters for her bill to prohibit the sale of gun clips with more than 10 bullets, she finds it difficult to persuade many colleagues to vote for the legislation. 

In Tucson, Jared Lee Loughner was able to shoot 20 people, firing 31 times, without re-loading. The McCarthy bill would make it necessary to re-load after shooting 11 bullets. The McCarthy bill would give a potential victim a little more time to avoid being shot. 

But the National Rifle Association is strongly opposed to any such change in the law.

Opponents believe the bill would be a small step, a very small step, toward sanity.

The congresswoman was a practical nurse in Mineola when the incident occurred that has gone down in history as “The LIRR Massacre.” She is serving her eighth term in Congress, She never expected to be there but the tragedy in her family gave her the incentive to run “and do something about it.”

“I never wanted to be a politician,” she says, “but a split second can change your life.”

She identifies strongly with the family of Gabby Giffords and the other victims of the Tucson shooting. When she saw the doctor who treated Giffords talking on tv, she thought back to that terrible day when another doctor was briefing the press about her son, Kevin. She told a reporter: “Although the medical experts then gave my son as much as a 15 percent chance of survival, the nurse in me said: that’s zero. But the mother in me believed he would survive.”

About President Obama’s speech urging a new era of civility in America, the congresswoman said: “He set the right tone. He is trying to heal the nation. We need to have a conversation about guns. We have a right to own guns. That’s been established. We need to talk about some limitations, including a better way to bar the mentally ill from buying weapons.

Colin Ferguson, the man who perpetrated the massacre on the LIRR, she recalled, “had four clips with 15 bullets in each.”

“For the families at Virginia Tech and Tucson, it was a nightmare. And it’s still a nightmare for me.”

Although the prospects for her bill look bleak she vows to continue fighting for it -- against the wimps in Congress and the NRA.

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