Nevada’s Heller says terror funding formula not fair to Vegas | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada’s Heller says terror funding formula not fair to Vegas

A man pauses at a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., this week renewed Nevada's long-standing argument that the formula for awarding homeland security terrorism grants isn't fair to cities like Las Vegas.

Grants under the Urban Area Security Initiative are awarded primarily based on the population of the metropolitan area seeking funding. They are awarded for efforts to prevent, protect against, mitigate and recover from acts of terrorism. Nevada's leaders and congressional delegation have long argued that doesn't treat relatively small cities like Las Vegas that have huge numbers of tourist visitors fairly. While the Las Vegas metropolitan area has 2 million people and the city itself less than 700,000, it was visited by upward of 43 million tourists last year.

"This week's tragedy in Las Vegas underscores the need for Homeland Security to reconfigure its risk profile assessment formula and direct more federal resources to the city," said Heller in a statement Thursday. "The Urban Area Security Initiative is critical to keeping both Las Vegas residents and tourists safe.

Heller told a press conference Wednesday night that, at the request of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Sheriff Joe Lombardo, he raised the issue with President Trump during the trip from Washington, D.C., to Las Vegas on Air Force 1.

He said he emphasized, "how important it is to Las Vegas, this Strip, has the funding necessary to keep not only it's citizens safe but also those who are visiting this city. It's not enough we have 2.1 million people who live in this valley, we have 42 million who come to this valley each year to visit and I want to ensure they have the money to buy the equipment they need to be able to monitor and be able to follow up on the issues they face on a day to day basis."

A spokesman for Heller's office said the senator has repeatedly pushed for homeland security to "reconfigure the formula," to recognize the impact of tourist visitation and give Las Vegas a larger share of the annual grant funding. He wrote a letter to then DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in January 2016 raising the issue and in June of this year, sent a similar letter to then-DHS Secretary John Kelly.

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Heller's office said he renewed the argument this week in a letter to Acting Secretary Elaine Duke after the Las Vegas shooting and followed that by raising the issue with President Trump.

Aaron Rouse, FBI agent in charge in Las Vegas, told that same Wednesday press conference there is, at this point, no evidence to indicate the shooting was terrorist sponsored and that shooter Stephen Paddock's motives are still unknown.

The most recent Homeland Security grant awarded to Nevada came Sept. 1 and totaled $11.1 million including $2.8 million specifically for Las Vegas.

In the wake of the massacre that left 58 dead and some 500 injured, Heller told Fox News he doesn't intend to water down the Second Amendment but does support a ban on the "bump stock" device that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.

"You show me the law that would stop that, not only will I support it, I will be an advocate for that law," he was quoted as saying.

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