U.S. Rep. Susie Lee and Wally Swenson, vice president of corporate affairs at Nevada HAND speak during a town hall. (Photo: Michael Lyle)
As Congress considers, yet again, gun control legislation following recent mass shootings in New York and Texas, Democratic U.S. Rep. Susie Lee worried about its fate without enough support from Republican senators.
Lee, who took questions on social security and access to health care at a seniors town hall in Las Vegas Tuesday, was also asked about congressional action on measures to address gun violence.
“If we’re going to get something done, we’re going to have to bring 10 Republicans to the table to get something passed unless we get rid of the filibuster,” she said. “We have got to figure out a way where we can craft a bipartisan piece of legislation.”
Filibuster reform, Lee added, won’t happen because of Democratic U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, which means any proposal would need a minimum of 60 votes in support.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the Protecting Our Kids Act, which would raise the minimum purchasing age of semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, create new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevent gun trafficking, require all firearms to be traceable, and close the loophole on bump stocks, among other things.
“We are not going to prevent everything, but by God we better try like hell,” Lee said. “I don’t want to live in a country where we are going to sit back and accept this as our normal.”
As she was speaking about what Congress was looking at, someone in the audience asked about assault weapon bans.
Lee, who supports a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, wasn’t sure legislation “would get past the House right now, sadly.”
Since federal action on gun prevention has repeatedly failed, most reforms have been left up to states.
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Nevada a C+ rating when it comes to gun laws, noting the state lacks strong laws on assault weapon restrictions, large capacity magazine bans and waiting periods for gun owner licensing.
In the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, Democratic lawmakers passed several reforms, including banning bump stocks and prohibiting “ghost guns,” though parts of the state law were struck down in 2021.
Lee said she supports the Second Amendment but believes there should be restrictions in place that could prevent mass shootings like what was seen in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school
“We have to come through a collective recognition that our Second Amendment protects the right to own a gun,” she said. “But something that can kill shouldn’t be unchecked.”
Lee on housing, other issues
The town hall, hosted by the nonprofit low-income housing developer Nevada HAND, was organized to give seniors a chance to talk about pressing issues around housing and prescription drugs. It included several residents living in the low-income housing community.
Wally Swenson, vice president of corporate affairs at Nevada HAND, applauded the congressional delegation on the funding being secured to address the housing crisis and asked what else was being done to ensure more affordable housing was being built.
Lee noted that the American Rescue Plan Act, federal relief legislation that infused Nevada with about $6.7 billion in funding, along with investments provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which provides funding through September, will help the state build thousands of affordable units.
“In 2022, we just passed over $1.7 billion that will come to help build over 8,000 affordable housing units here in Nevada,” she said of the appropriations bills.
Lee added that “another $48 million (is) coming into Southern Nevada for affordable housing,” referencing grant funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Biden’s proposed social spending and climate investment legislation, known as the Build Back Better bill, has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from 50 Senate Republicans and Manchin, who said he didn’t support the bill as written.
Efforts to rein in prescription drug costs and cap insulin, a long-time priority for Democrats, were part of the package.
Lee remained optimistic that provisions to address prescription costs, which is currently supported by Manchin, could still be done this year.
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