WASHINGTON – Houston's police chief sharply criticized the two Republican U.S. senators from his state and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over gun control legislation during an emotional news conference as he prepared to escort the body of a police officer killed in the line of duty to a funeral home.
Sgt. Christopher Brewster, 32, was fatally shot Saturday while responding to a domestic violence call.
Police Chief Art Acevedo called on the Senate on Monday to renew the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in February. In April, the House passed a version of the bill that includes a provision expanding the definition of domestic abusers who would be prohibited from owning guns.
"We all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and others" have not reached a compromise on the bill is that the National Rifle Association "doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends," Acevedo said.
"And who killed our sergeant?" he asked. "A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend.
"You're either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you're here for the NRA," he said.
He said he did not want to see the Republican lawmakers' "little smug faces" as they talk "about how much they care about law enforcement when I'm burying a sergeant because they don't want to piss off the NRA."
"Make up your minds," Acevedo said. "Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers, the gun lobby or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?"
Acevedo also called on McConnell, Cruz and Cornyn to pass the Violence Against Women Act in a tweet last week.
Cornyn responded with a tweet blaming the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
"Unfortunately, important legislation like this has fallen casualty to impeachment mania," Cornyn said. "We will keep trying to pass a bipartisan bill but it takes two (parties) to tango."
Unfortunately, important legislation like this has fallen casualty to impeachment mania. We will keep trying to pass a bipartisan bill but it takes two (parties) to tango https://t.co/Qr3NcTOzM3
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) December 5, 2019
Under federal law, all felons are prohibited from owning firearms. People who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse against a spouse, ex-spouse, co-parent or someone the victim has lived with are also prohibited. That leaves women who are dating, but not living with, an abuser vulnerable under what critics call the "boyfriend loophole."
The House version of the Violence Against Women Act would expand the prohibited users to include convicted stalkers and those convicted of abusing someone whom they are not married to or living with.
The NRA opposed the legislation as too broad and vaguely defined.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told The New York Times that "many of those 'offenses’ – and I’m using air quotes here – the behavior that would qualify as a stalking offense is often not violent or threatening; it involves no personal contact whatsoever."
"How it’s written right now, you could be convicted for a misdemeanor stalking offense for a tweet that causes someone emotional distress, and then you would be prohibited from owning a firearm," Baker said.
Last month, efforts by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to find a bipartisan solution broke down. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Ernst of being "afraid of the NRA," and Ernst accused Schumer of opposing her version of the bill, which did not include the boyfriend provision, because he wanted to hurt her chances at reelection.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo slams Mc,Connell, Cruz, Cornyn on NRA