Earlier this morning, Democratic lawmakers gathered in Washington D.C. to unveil the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which is legislation that would ban “military-style” assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. The press conference announcing the bill featured New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, the legislation’s House sponsor, as its first speaker. Needless to say, Ms. McCarthy–whose husband was killed in a 1993 shooting spree on the Long Island Rail Road–made it clear it wasn’t going to be a speech that stuck to the script.
“This battle has been a very lonely battle for many, many years,” Ms. McCarthy began. “You know, a lot of words can be said. I’ve got a great speech here and my staff worked on it a long time and I’m probably going to do what they always tell me not to do. That means just talk from my heart.”
Ms. McCarthy expressed particular frustration that gun control legislation has stalled in Congress but argued that the recent massacre at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school would be the catalyst for change.
“For the last several years, the massacres have been going on more and more. Going through it, I kept saying, ‘What’s the matter with all of us?’” she asked. “How many people have to be killed before we do something? I thought for sure after Virginia Tech that we would get something done. Aurora [too]. But something happened in Newtown. The people of America said, ‘How could this happen? How could this happen to our children?’”
Gun rights advocates typically argue that restrictions on firearms won’t lower crime since criminals are inherently willing to buy weapons illegally, but Ms. McCarthy countered by arguing the individuals involved in shooting sprees are not capable of buying the weapons on the black market.
“We have these machines. We have the large magazines that can take down 20 children in seconds,” she said. “Some people will say this bill won’t work. Let me tell you why it will work. Because if you don’t have these guns and the large magazines on the shelves, those who have done these horrific killings wouldn’t be able to go into a gun store and just buy them. They don’t have the background to go and look where the black market is and buy these magazines and guns. They go to the simplest place. If they aren’t in the stores, they can’t be bought. Think of the lives that can be saved. “
Adding that there’s a need for additional legislation to deal with drugs and mental health, Ms. McCarthy said, “This is only the beginning. We’re going to be working on a holistic approach.”
Ms. McCarthy also addressed the death of her husband and what the meant for her emotionally, especially in the wake of the Newtown shooting.
“There’s a lot of them saying that that’s not going to do anything. I’m saying to you that we can save lives,” she said. “Think about this, since Newtown, just about 1,000 people have died from guns. 1,000 people. Those children, their dreams–the dreams of even those who have died from other violence–never to be fulfilled. The day that that incident happened, I was actually giving an interview. And it was just a reporter following up on how do I get through the holidays. And she said to me, ‘Oh my god, do you have the TV on?’ And that was the beginning of my nightmare again….It has to stop. It has to stop. We can do it. We can make a difference.”