By Mick Krever, CNN
Is America’s National Rifle Association unbeatable?
As mass shooting after mass shooting has failed to force implementation of even the most popular gun control measures, that sentiment has almost become a truism of American politics.
For 18 years, one American congresswoman – whose own family felt the bitter reality of gun violence – has made it her mission to enact reform.
“We have come a long way from where we first started,” Carolyn McCarthy told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Monday.
“My nemesis has been the National Rifle Association. But I also see now, today, new voices speaking out.”
The NRA, which held its annual convention this weekend, seems to be racking up victory after victory. In Georgia, a new law allows weapons in schools, churches, libraries, airports and even bars.
But gun control advocates have quietly been winning cases against the NRA, McCarthy said – cases that don’t make the news.
“The message has always been that we’re trying to take away everyone’s right to own a gun. We’re not. Never have been. It’s gun violence, gun safety that we’re trying to do.”
McCarthy experienced the impact of gun violence first hand just over 20 years ago.
“My husband, my son, and so many other people were coming back from New York City out onto [Long Island],” she told Amanpour.
“Unfortunately there was a person on the train that had large amounts of bullets, and every one of his bullets hit somebody. My husband was killed, and my son was severely injured, as so many other were.”
“I was a fairly quiet person,” she said, but the event galvanized her.
“People started to ask me, ‘Can you talk about it?’ And it was at that time that I said I have to do something about it. And I became a voice.”
Her proudest moment in Congress, she said, was the inaction of a law – in the wake of the shootings at Viriginia Tech – that amended the system of background checks for gun purchases.
“I just started working like the dickens on both sides of the aisle – and yes, even with the NRA. And we got that billed passed, and we also got it signed by President [George W.] Bush. So you can get things done. But you need the cooperation of both aisles.”
McCarthy is leaving her post for health reasons – she has undergone treatment for cancer – but did say that the atmosphere in Congress had become “downright awful.”
“It’s not working because no one is talking to each other. And if you learn to talk to each other, or go on trips to get to know each other – when you’re on a plane going to a foreign country and sitting next to another member who much be totally opposite than you, you find you actually have a lot of things in common.”
The increasingly demanding schedule, she said, leave little time to make friends.
“Last week when we were voting, one of my colleagues said, ‘Who is that person up there?’”
“And I’m looking – I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And I used to know almost every member of Congress.”