Former US Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., on February 2013.

Opinion: A mass shooting on a train killed her husband and injured her son. New York's subway shooting brings back painful memories and a call for action

Updated 9:06 PM ET, Wed April 13, 2022

Stephanie Griffith is an opinion editor at CNN.com. Read more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)A 1993 shooting on a moving Long Island Rail Road commuter train in the New York suburbs left Carolyn McCarthy's husband dead and her son gravely wounded. The tragedy transformed McCarthy, a nurse, into a nationally recognized force for gun reform on Capitol Hill, where she represented a suburban congressional district for nine terms.

McCarthy became the "Gun Lady" of Capitol Hill.
Now retired in Florida, McCarthy told CNN Opinion for those like her, whose lives have been touched by gun violence, each new senseless shooting brings up haunting memories of their own trauma, transporting them back to their personal tragedy.
Carolyn McCarthy with her late husband Dennis and their son Kevin.
That was especially true for McCarthy this week, as she watched blanket television coverage of the horrific shooting in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, where a gunman opened fire on a Manhattan-bound, rush-hour subway train.
Ten people were shot, and at least 29 were treated at nearby hospitals for injuries, none of which were said to be life-threatening.
All day, McCarthy monitored news of the shooting; she couldn't not watch. The shooting spree echoed resonantly of the shooting on the Long Island Railroad that changed her life forever, with the victims -- much like her late husband -- unable to flee from the gunman who targeted them until the train pulled into a station.
Her particular focus while serving in the House of Representatives was trying to ban high-power automatic firearms that are responsible for so many mass casualty events in the United States.
Although she didn't succeed in that quest, McCarthy hasn't lost hope for gun reform. She said the movement has had some small wins in the past several years, and praised President Joe Biden's announcement this week tightening restrictions on the sale of "ghost guns," including requiring serial numbers on the components parts so the eventual firearm can be traced.
She also noted the settlement obtained by Sandy Hook families against the manufacturer of the AR-15 style rifle used to kill 20 elementary school students and six adults.
McCarthy left the House in 2015, after serving for 18 years representing New York's 4th congressional district, which covers parts of Long Island. And, coincidentally, she was born in Brooklyn, the borough where Tuesday's mass shooting took place.
Now 78, she lives in retirement in Fort Myers, Florida, and continues to battle the cancer that ended her political career.
"They had me in hospice last year, and I refused to die, so I'm still going. Now I'm in palliative care, but I'm beating every expectation," she said. "I'm stubborn Irish; what can I tell you? My friends keep saying, you're probably going to be around after they're not around. That's certainly my goal."
Despite retiring, McCarthy still has pointed and poignant views on the shooting that changed her life, and the gun violence that continues to be a scourge in cities and towns across the United States. She offered her thoughts on the Brooklyn shooting to CNN Opinion editor Stephanie Griffith.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CNN: All mass shootings are terrible, but there's something about being trapped in an enclosed, moving train car that has a particular horror about it. Can you talk about that?
McCarthy: Many of the