Friday, June 14, 2019 | 9:20 p.m.
During a Friday visit to Las Vegas, Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris signaled she would take decisive action against gun violence should she win the 2020 election.
The California senator lamented the inaction of political leaders to curb the bloodshed of mass shootings, one of which forever scarred Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, the deadliest such attack in modern U.S. history.
“There are supposed leaders in Washington, D.C., who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice, which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”
In her speech at a women’s meet-and-greet at Eclipse Theaters in downtown Las Vegas, Harris called for universal background checks on firearms and a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban, a version of which was in effect for a decade before expiring in 2004.
“When elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together on this issue and put a bill on my desk for a signature. And if they do not, I will take executive action and put in place what will be the first comprehensive background check requirement. I will require that the ATF take the licenses of gun owners who fail to follow the law, and I will, by executive action, put a ban on the importation of assault weapons into our country.”
Palo Verde High School senior Ainslee Archibalt said she and her classmates have to go through lockdown drills at school all the time. Some of them, she said, are real lockdowns.
“My friends are scared and so am I,” she said. “I want to turn my fear into action.”
That’s why Archibalt, 17, came to Harris’ event representing Students Demand Action, an advocacy group trying to end gun violence.
“I’m glad (Harris) is talking about (gun violence) in a place like Vegas,” she said. “The conversation has been much more prevalent after Oct. 1.”
At the event, Harris also played up the gender pay gap, one of her campaign priorities.
“Since we passed the Equal Pay Act (in 1963), we have been talking about the fact that women are not paid the same amount as men for equal work,” she said. “Fast forward to the year of our Lord, 2019, where women on average are working 80 cents on the dollar, black women 61 cents, Native American women 58 cents and Latinas 53 cents.”
While progress has been made on the pay gap, Harris said, she wants to take it to the next level by shifting the burden from working women to the corporations that employ them.
She said she would require corporations to post whether they are giving women equal pay for equal work, as well as create incentives and accountability for every 1% differential in what men and women are paid.
“Until they close that gap, they will pay a 1% fine based on 1% of their profits,” she said. “I think we might see some difference.”
After her speech, Harris met with audience members.
Susan Teitel works on redevelopment projects that involve affordable housing. She said she came out to support Harris because she likes her history on sponsoring affordable housing bills. One of them was Harris’ rental subsidy bill, the Rent Relief Act, which would implement a refundable tax credit available to those who make under $100,000.
“She is the epitome of what I’m looking for,” she said. “I know she’s about helping people.”
Earlier Friday, Harris marched with protesting and striking McDonald's employees as the workers called for a $15 minimum wage and better working conditions.
"If we want to talk about these golden arches being a symbol of the best of America, well, the arches are falling short," Harris said. "We have got to recognize that working people deserved livable wages."
Harris is among the majority of Democratic presidential candidates who support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, up from $7.25. This week, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law an increase of Nevada's minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 for workers who receive health insurance through their employer and $8.25 for those who don't. The new law would raise those rates incrementally by 2024 to $11 for those with health benefits and $12 for those without.
She is scheduled to host a rally at the Doolittle Community Center at 9:45 a.m. Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.