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McCarthy says gun bill pushes back at NRA

WASHINGTON - The strong wind that blows against gun-control advocates in Congress is more apparent than ever these days, but Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) remains defiant and undeterred.

On Wednesday McCarthy introduced another federal bill aimed at curbing the spread of illegal guns - this one requiring people to report lost or stolen handguns to police.

"I am making a statement. I will never forget why I am here," said McCarthy, whose husband's slaying by a gunman in 1993 on the Long Island Rail Road led her to run for office.

"This is a push back to the NRA," McCarthy said.

The National Rifle Association is riding high these days. It has won key Supreme Court rulings that the right to bear arms is an individual right and applies to states.

It has so much clout in Congress that Rep. Chris Von Hollen (D-Md.), House sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, exempted the NRA from the bill's requirement that corporations and unions disclose their role in paying for candidate ads.

And it is challenging new laws that it once looked past.

In recent years, the NRA has been busy, but so far unsuccessful, trying to beat back laws in court passed by Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and 27 other Pennsylvania towns to require reporting of missing guns.

But in 2000, when New York Gov. George Pataki signed a gun-control bill that included the reporting requirement, the NRA didn't mount a major challenge.

In announcing her bill Wednesday, McCarthy said it's not aimed at individual gunowners, but at "straw purchasers" who aid or engage in gun trafficking.

"When police discover a gun at a crime scene it's usually possible to trace it back to an original purchaser," she said. "Straw purchasers often rely on the 'I lost it and forgot to report it' loophole to get off the hook."

Under her bill, gun owners would have 72 hours after discovery to report missing guns to police, or face a fine of up to $250,000 or a year in jail.

"It is a common-sense law," McCarthy said.

The NRA didn't respond to requests for comment.

In Pennsylvania court filings, the NRA said missing-gun reporting laws impinge on Second Amendment rights and put a burden on gun owners to conduct inventories of their guns.

McCarthy has no illusions about the strength of the NRA.

Consider this measure of its muscle: a bill McCarthy introduced in December to prevent gun trafficking has 18 co-sponsors, but a resolution that Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) offered in May to commend the NRA on its Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program for kids has 125.

McCarthy said she hopes her new bill, which polls well even with NRA members, will pass.

"The Supreme Court has laid it out that we are still allowed to use common-sense gun laws for protection of our communities," she said. "We're hoping with this legislation we put the NRA on the spot."

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