Carolyn McCarthy (born January 5, 1944) is the U.S. Representative for New York's 4th congressional district, serving since 1997. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district is located in central Long Island in west-central Nassau County and includes Mineola, the Five Towns, East Rockaway, Rockville Centre, Oceanside, Garden City, Hempstead, Uniondale, East Meadow, Roosevelt, Franklin Square, West Hempstead, Valley Stream, and Elmont.
McCarthy was born Carolyn Cook in Brooklyn, raised in Mineola. Her father was a boilermaker and her mother worked at Woolworth's. In her youth, she was an athlete and wanted to become a physical education teacher but found reading challenging and later was diagnosed with dyslexia. After caring for her boyfriend injured from a car accident, McCarthy decided to work as a Licensed Practical Nurse. She lived with her family in Mineola, a suburban area about twenty miles outside New York City on Long Island. On December 7, 1993, her husband, Dennis, was killed and her son, Kevin, severely injured, on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train at the Merillon Avenue station, when a mass murderer, Colin Ferguson, opened fire on random unarmed passengers. Ferguson killed six and wounded 19 others. McCarthy responded to the crime by launching a campaign for additional gun control that eventually propelled her to Congress in 1996 on the Democratic ticket.
In the biographical 1998 television movie The Long Island Incident, which portrayed these events, she was played by actress Laurie Metcalf.
McCarthy is one of the most vocal advocates in the nation for gun control.
In 1997, she sponsored a bill requiring trigger locks on guns. She introduced legislation to ban the sale of guns to tourists to the United States after the 1997 Empire State Building shooting. Because of this, she reported receiving several death threats. Later that same year, McCarthy opposed a Treasury bill provision that allowed importing weapons that are banned for sale in the U.S. In the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre, McCarthy submitted a bill requiring firearms be child-resistant and to add obstacles to the purchase of guns by young adults along with regulating gun shows.
After the Assault Weapons Ban expired in September 2004, McCarthy introduced the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007 to reauthorize it in February 2007.
McCarthy's new version would ban 65 models of firearms, as opposed to the previous ban's 19 models. In addition, McCarthy's law would ban any semiautomatic rifle, shotgun or handgun that was "originally designed for military or law enforcement use, or a firearm based on the design of such a firearm, that is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, as determined by the Attorney General." A journalist asserted that the bill has little chance of passage and criticized it as a "fund-raising" bill. McCarthy frames the reintroduction of the ban as law enforcement protection, though active, off-duty and retired police officers would be exempt from the gun bans.
On the April 18, 2007 showing of MSNBC's program Tucker, Tucker Carlson interviewed McCarthy concerning the Virginia Tech massacre and her proposed reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban. He asked her to explain the need to regulate barrel shrouds, one of the many provisions of the Act. She responded that more importantly the legislation would ban large capacity "clips" (sic) used in the Virginia Tech massacre and that the class of guns chosen were those used by gangs and police killers.
However, the Virginia Tech shooter did not have high capacity magazines; they were the AWB compliant 10 round variety. After admitting that she did not know what a barrel shroud was, McCarthy incorrectly stated, "I believe it is a shoulder thing that goes up".
On Monday, April 16, 2007, after the shootings at Virginia Tech, and after President Bush's press secretary Dana Perino said, "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," McCarthy issued a press release calling for "legislation to prevent further acts of gun violence." Because the Virginia Tech massacre gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, was able to pass the background check to legally buy a firearm despite his prior mental health issues because of inconsistent sharing of records between the federal and state governments, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 2640, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007) introduced by McCarthy, with the support of the National Rifle Association and later signed into law by President Bush to remedy this. McCarthy indicated she wanted later to revisit the issue of doing background checks at gun shows.
McCarthy voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. In 2006, she voted in support of a Republican resolution in support of the war.
In her 1996 race, McCarthy said she was against the death penalty but stated she wouldn't support repeal because her district supported it.
McCarthy is one of the strongest advocates of hearing loss detection, prevention, and treatment.
As a former nurse, she has repeatedly championed the Hearing Aid Tax Credit Act (H.R. 1646 in the current session of Congress - www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org), which is designed to help those with hearing loss afford hearing aids.
In September 2007, McCarthy supported an increase of $35 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the national program to provide health care for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance. She said, “No child in the 4th Congressional District, Long Island, or anywhere throughout our nation should ever go without medical care." The increase passed but was later vetoed by President Bush.
The Fourth District and its predecessors had been in Republican hands since 1953, even though the surrounding Nassau County has supported Democrats for President since 1992. In 1996, the district's first-term Republican incumbent Dan Frisa was running for re-election while McCarthy testified against a Republican measure to repeal the federal Assault Weapons Ban in a congressional hearing, an attempt that was ultimately unsuccessful.
After Frisa voted for the repeal, McCarthy, a lifelong Republican, announced she would run against him in the primary. However, local Republican officials indicated disinterest. So, with the support of the local and national Democratic parties, and the endorsement of Newsday, the local daily newspaper, McCarthy ran as a Democrat and defeated Frisa by seventeen points. Afterwards, some Republicans tried to persuade her to run as a Republican in 1998, but that never occurred.
She faced a close fight for reelection in 1998 against state assemblyman Gregory Becker, but did not face serious opposition again until 2004. That year, she faced Hempstead mayor James Garner. The race was expected to be competitive, but McCarthy won easily, taking 63% of the vote.
Although McCarthy has always served as a Democrat, she did not change her voter registration from Republican until 2003.
McCarthy won over Republican challenger Francis X. Becker, Jr.
Earlier, it was widely reported that she was considering entering the 2010 Senatorial special election to challenge Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, based upon the latter's support for gun rights. Gillibrand was appointed January 23, 2009 by Governor David Paterson to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had vacated the seat to become Secretary of State in the new Obama Administration. On June 4, 2009. Congresswoman McCarthy announced that she would not run in the 2010 Democratic Party primary for the US Senate.
December 23rd, 2011