McCarthy To Propose Ban On High-Capacity Ammo

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) talks to Steve Inskeep about a gun control proposal she hopes to introduce this week in response to the shootings in Arizona. The gun recovered had a "high capacity" magazine that held at least 30 bullets. McCarthy has experiences the effects of gun violence firsthand. Her husband was killed, and her son wounded, in a shooting spree on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The shootings in Tucson, Arizona have prompted a call for a change to gun laws.

MONTAGNE: Representative Carolyn McCarthy wants to make that change. A gunman killed her husband and wounded her son on the Long Island railroad back in 1993, and McCarthy was elected to Congress as an advocate for gun control.

INSKEEP: In Saturday's shooting, the gunman fired a Glock semiautomatic pistol. The Democratic representative is focusing not on the weapon here but on the magazine, which held at least 30 bullets.

Let's review some history so that we have this clear. In the 1990s, an assault weapons ban was passed in the United States. After a decade, it expired in 2004. The magazine that was used over the weekend would've been illegal during that decade, but, of course, it is quite legal now. Is that correct?

Representative CAROLYN MCCARTHY (Democrat, New York): That's correct. A clip can carry anywhere from 10 bullets, all the way up to 33, depending on the manufacturer.

INSKEEP: And so you want legislation that specifically targets that kind of magazine, not actually the weapons themselves?

Rep. MCCARTHY: No. The weapons in themselves - number one, I have to look at, you know, what can actually pass in Congress and have it signed by the president. The House and the Senate are pro-gun houses. So with that being said, I have to find something that will be reasonable to the majority of the members so that we can cut down.

You have to understand, with the large amounts of bullets that were held in the magazine he was able to spray and shoot, unfortunately, an awful lot of very innocent victims.

INSKEEP: It's interesting that you mention that the House and Senate, as you describe them, are pro-gun right now. The Democratic Party has, I think it's fair to say, has very much quieted down or backed off its efforts at gun control in recent years. Doesn't that suggest that there is just not the kind of political support that there might once have been for measures like the kind you are advocating here?

Rep. MCCARTHY: Well, you're absolutely right. But I did pass legislation after the Virginia Tech shooting, which President Bush did sign. I was able to get it through the House and the Senate, you know. With my history, unfortunately, with my family suffering through gun violence, it's something that I feel passionately about, that even though the odds are certainly always uphill, that doesn't mean that I will stop fighting to try to change that.

INSKEEP: As you know, there are Republicans, as well as Democrats, who have signed onto stricter background checks of various kinds when people go to legally purchase weapons. Why do you feel that that is now not enough?

Rep. MCCARTHY: Well, it's not enough, mainly because people on the outside, let's say for a gun show, there are many people that go to gun shows and buy guns off private people and don't go through any background checks. So, I mean, even though there are laws out there, there are always ways that you need to look at and how do you fine-tune it.

INSKEEP: What would you say to gun rights supporters who may be listening to you and feeling that you're politicizing this rather extreme tragedy to push the bill that you're describing?

Rep. MCCARTHY: No. that's absolutely not true. I've been working on gun issues for the last 14 years, since I've been in Congress. This is something I'm passionate about, as much as they are passionate about say their Second Amendment rights.

We're not dealing about guns here. We're dealing about a piece of equipment that goes to the gun. I think when you think about just common sense here, large capacity clips that can basically, in my opinion, be weapons of mass destruction, should not be available to the average citizen. They will be available to our military. They will be available to our police officers.

INSKEEP: How often have you had an opportunity to work with Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman who was shot?

Rep. MCCARTHY: Certainly she was a moderate. I'm considered a new Democrat, which would be considered moderate. And with that being said, you know, we agreed on many issues and we always try to work with both sides of the aisle. And I think that's something that we've had in common.

INSKEEP: It is interesting, though, and maybe it does suggest the shift in the Democratic Party that we've talked about here, in that she is a Democrat and she favors gun rights.

Rep. MCCARTHY: She does favor gun rights, but she also does look at the legislation that she feels is fair. So she goes for whatever she feels will protect her constituents.

INSKEEP: Congressman Carolyn McCarthy, thanks very much.

Rep. MCCARTHY: Thank you so much for having me on. Always a pleasure.

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