Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.RSS Feed
News - October 4, 2022
One of the biggest successes for Nevada's 4th U.S. House District Rep. Steven Horsford during the current Congress was House passage of his 'Break the Cycle of Violence Act,' he said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.
If approved by the U.S. Senate, the bill will provide federal grants to communities for gun-violence intervention and prevention programs to interrupt cycles of violence.
"My bill will provide $6.5 billion over eight years, in coordination with law enforcement, through community-based and faith-based organizations to help reduce crime, save lives and break the cycle of violence," Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, told host Sam Shad.
Horsford fondly calls it "my bill," although it was co-sponsored by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.
Yet Horsford's ownership and passion for the bill goes back to an unforgettable and devastating incident that occurred early in his life.
"I lost my father to gun violence when I was 19," Horsford said. "I was a college student at the University of Nevada, Reno. And I got the call that so many families, constituents that I hear from, you know, don't want to hear.
"And that was the call that my father was shot," Horsford added. "He was working as a cook. And someone was coming in to rob the place that he worked at.
"And he ended up taking the bullet and on the way to the hospital, died in the ambulance," he said. "And so I never got a chance to say good-bye to him, to tell him I loved him, or for him to be able to see me progress in my life or now to be in Congress.
"But it's why the work that I do is so meaningful," Horsford said.
Horsford wants the bill to help end retribution killings that have devastated families in his district and other communities across America.
"Well, without our bill, you just have this cycle of violence because someone has a crime committed against them and they think they have to retaliate," he said. "And there are programs now that I can show you. There are things that can be done to resolve conflict.
"We have hospital interventions at UMC (University Medical Center)," he said. "So when someone is shot, unfortunately, they can bring in trauma specialists to work with that person and their family so that they don't come out of the hospital -- if they're fortunate enough to live -- and the first thing they want to do is retaliate or find the person that may have tried to cause them harm.
"So that's part of what my bill does," Horsford said. "But our bill also is about creating opportunity for youth ages 16 to 24, who are many times not in school or not in a job. And there's this sense of hopelessness because they don't see opportunity in their lives or in their community around them. And so my bill provides $1.5 billion to provide year-round, summer-employment opportunities for workforce development and apprenticeships."
Homicide rates in urban centers are nearly 20 times higher than the national average and has a disproportionate impact on young people of color, according to data from the Center for Disease Control. In fact, Black men and boys, who make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population, account for 63 percent of all homicide victims, the CDC reports.
"My belief is if you provide people with the skills, the opportunity and the exposure, that's the best thing that can help reduce crime, save lives and really break the cycle of violence," Horsford said. "I know because I've seen it personally."
The bill also provides help for rural counties, said Horsford, whose CD-4 includes urban North Las Vegas and much of rural Nevada, including small cities such as Yerington and Ely.
Horsford said the bill also provides "funding for small, local law enforcement departments," adding:
"Many of my rural counties will be able to receive that funding. We were able to support legislation around more support for mental health resources, to go into situations with law enforcement, and also to help address outstanding unsolved crimes and to help victims get restoration."
Yet the bill is also designed to save taxpayer money over the long run, said the bill's co-sponsor, Delaware's Rep. Rochester.
"Gun violence costs the United States $280 billion every year -- with each American bearing $700 of this cost annually," Rochester said in a news release. "A single gun homicide costs taxpayers $448,000 in medical and criminal justice expenses. The Break the Cycle of Violence Act would be an effective solution to saving both lives and taxpayer dollars."
Horsford said the bill also pushes back on those who say Democrats don't support police.
"There's always this rap, you know, you guys want to defund the police or you're weak on crime," he said.
"No, I support police," he said. "I voted for support for local law enforcement when I was in the state senate, with one of my first bills as a freshman senator back in 2005. And I've continued to do that.
"But it's not only law enforcement that can help save lives and reduce crime," Horsford added. "It's these community-based, violence-intervention programs that are also pretty effective. We need multiple approaches to keep our community safe."
Horsford is now turning attention to the Senate, hoping his bill is also approved in the Upper House and then signed into law by President Biden. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, introduced the bill in the Senate.
"We're working day and night," he said, later adding: "You know, I'm always optimistic and confident that with good people trying to solve problems, we can pass legislation."
Horsford, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he's got funding for Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base and the Nevada Test and Training Range, all within his district, in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
"The House has passed it," he said. "The Senate is supposed to take it up in October. I've secured a number of commitments specifically for Nellis and Creech and the Nevada Test and Training Range, of course, based on our military installations in our district, but also to support our military and our Department of Defense so that we can protect our freedom around the world."
The House NDAA does not include expansion of the Naval Air Station near Fallon. The expansion has been a controversial request and Nevada's congressional representatives have considered the various opinions, Horsford said.
"Our House version included language to support the request for the Fallon Naval Base to receive some additional land," he said. "They worked with the local (native American) tribal leaders. There are some provisions for the Walker River Paiute Tribe Chairman that I've worked with to make sure those were included so that tribal sovereignty and land interests were protected.
"Congressman Amodei, Sen. Rosen and I have all worked to make sure that those (Fallon Naval Air Station) provisions are in the current bill and I hope will be in the Senate version that gets to us."
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