Ex-foes Gillibrand, McCarthy team on gun bill

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, left, whose family was victimized Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, left, whose family was victimized by gun violence, and Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand embrace during the announcement of the Gun Trafficking and Prevention Act of 2009 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. (November 24, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday/CRAIG RUTTLE

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Talk about a thaw.

In the latest example of politics making for the unlikeliest bedfellows, hugs, mutual praise and chitchat punctuated a news conference between Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a former darling of the National Rifle Association, and her former ardent foe, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), the stridently pro-gun-control congresswoman whose husband was killed in the mass shooting aboard the Long Island Rail Road.

Earlier this year, McCarthy had threatened to derail Gillibrand's upcoming bid to remain the Empire State's junior senator by running against her.

Tuesday, Gillibrand and McCarthy, both Democrats, announced they were teaming up to sponsor legislation to combat gun trafficking.

Flanked by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and family members who lost loved ones to gun violence, the legislative duo said the bill would give federal muscle to the fight against illegal guns.

Specifically, the law would go after people who strategize to avoid legally required background checks by sending others to buy their guns, the lawmakers said.

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In addition, the bill would fund federal agents and investigators for the fight against guns - at a cost of $370 million over several years, Gillibrand said.

Sitting in the front row at the event was Rita Kestenbaum, of Bellmore, whose daughter Carol and her friend, another LIer, were shot dead in 2007 at Arizona State University by a young man who then turned the gun on himself.

"Today's legislation . . . is so necessary," Kestenbaum said after the conference. "We have an attitude about guns that needs to be dealt with. . . . This is about keeping children, adults, everybody, safe from guns."

The affection between Gillibrand and McCarthy didn't escape the notice of reporters who had gathered at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan: The first question asked of the pair, and numerous follow-ups, centered on the detente.

McCarthy attributed the changes of heart, at least in part, to the "education" she gave Gillibrand, an upstate lawmaker who once earned the NRA's highest rating.

"You get an education, whether you're in the Congress or in the Senate," McCarthy said.

Referring to Gillibrand's chances of election in next year's U.S. Senate race, McCarthy said: "In the end, I do believe she will win [the Democratic] primary and I'm going to make sure that we have a woman Democratic senator from New York."

A spokesman for the NRA could not be immediately reached for comment.

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