Twenty years ago, McCarthy’s husband Dennis was one of the six people who died in a shooting rampage on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train. The shooter, Colin Ferguson, targeted people at random, carrying a handgun and high-capacity magazines. McCarthy’s son Kevin was also shot and severely injured in the spree. The tragedy prompted McCarthy to become an outspoken advocate for stronger gun laws and eventually win a seat in Congress three years later.
Yet McCarthy’s personal experience with the horrors of gun violence did not stop the NRA from disparaging her understanding of the issues surrounding firearms. NRA Organizer Colton Kerrigan played a video of the New York congresswoman and made fun of her for not knowing what a barrel shroud is, using the episode to dismiss her entire push for stronger gun laws. She has “no idea what [she's] writing, never shot a gun before, and yet [she's] going to tell you what you should and should not own to make everybody else safer.”
KERRIGAN: These lawmakers who write these laws have no idea what they’re talking about. They’ve never shot a firearm before, they couldn’t tell you what a barrel shroud is. They couldn’t tell you what a mount is for a bayonet. They probably couldn’t tell you what a flash suppressor is. Yet these are the people who are writing the laws saying we need to ban these certain types of firearms. [...] The underlying theme of all of this is, at the end of the day, the lawmakers have no idea what they’re writing, never shot a gun before, and yet they’re going to tell you what you should and should not own to make everybody else safer, yet they couldn’t tell you the difference between the butt or the barrel of a gun.
Watch it (excuse the technical malfunction at 1:18):
The NRA is mocking McCarthy for her support of a perfectly reasonable law. Barrel shrouds can be used to facilitate faster and more accurate fire into crowds of people — that is, precisely the sort of assault that claimed McCarthy’s husband’s life. Picking out features like barrel shrouds in assault weapon bans is an effective proxy mechanism for defining the most dangerous weapons currently being sold.
Moreover, to say that a woman who personally knows the tragic impact firearms but has “never shot a gun before” can’t have a valid perspective on gun laws is ludicrous. Her experience with gun violence is no less (and arguably much more) relevant to debates about gun laws than that of gun aficionados. Why does the mere fact of growing up going to a shooting range mean that one’s opinion should be given more weight than that of a woman whose husband was gunned down?