Standing outside the medical examiner’s office Monday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo waited to escort the body of a fallen police officer to a funeral home. Just two days earlier, Sergeant Christopher Brewster was killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic violence call.
To Acevedo, the fatal incident could have been prevented if Arturo Solis, who police say pulled the trigger, hadn’t had access to a gun in the first place.
In blistering remarks to reporters outside the medical examiner’s office, Acevedo slammed Republican leaders for failing for months to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, specifically calling out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for not supporting a provision that would prohibit dating partners convicted of domestic violence — like Solis — from possessing firearms .
Acevedo accused McConnell, Cruz, and Cornyn of being too afraid to support the provision because of retribution from the National Rifle Association.
‘‘We all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are not . . . getting the Violence Against Women Act [reauthorized] is because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends who abuse their girlfriends,’’ Acevedo said Monday.
‘‘And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend,’’ he added.
Solis, who is suspected of beating his girlfriend the night Brewster, 32, responded to the 911 call, has a past domestic violence conviction involving a partner in 2015, records show.
Drew Brandewie, a spokesman for Cornyn, argued that Acevedo’s decision to invoke the ‘‘boyfriend loophole’’ provision in relation to Solis’s case was moot, given there are already laws preventing people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence of buying guns, including in Texas.
‘‘So the ‘loophole’ he spent so much time blaming Sens. Cornyn and Cruz for didn’t apply because [Solis] already wasn’t supposed to own a gun,’’ Brandewie said in an e-mail.
A spokesman for Cruz could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday but told local TV station KHOU that the senator has spent many years ‘‘helping lead the fight to ensure that violent criminals — and especially sexual predators who target women and children — face the very strictest punishment,’’ adding that he is reviewing VAWA.
In 2013, when VAWA was up for reauthorization again, Cruz voted no. So did Cornyn and McConnell.
Acevedo’s comments come as Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are at odds over which version of the Violence Against Women Act to move forward with, causing bipartisan negotiations to stall and accusations of political jockeying to fly across the aisle. The law, which provides grants and funding for domestic-violence prevention programs, was passed in 1994 but expired in February.
The House reauthorized an expanded version of VAWA in the spring to include the provision that would prohibit romantic partners convicted of domestic violence or stalking from possessing firearms — closing the ‘‘boyfriend loophole.’’ Under current federal law, the gun safety provision applies only to spouses or ex-spouses, people who live together or have children together — but not dating partners. In the House, 33 Republicans broke ranks to vote to reauthorize the expanded version of the bill, which also included added protections for LGBT people and Native American women.
But the NRA came out in strong opposition, promising repercussions in the form of downgraded ratings for any Republican who voted for the ‘‘boyfriend loophole’’ version of VAWA. In an interview with the New York Times, a spokeswoman for the NRA called that provision a ‘‘poison pill,’’ arguing it was ‘‘too broad and ripe for abuse.’’
Acevedo’s accusations against the trio of Republicans mirror those that Democratic leadership have waged against Ernst and McConnell.
‘‘You’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you’re here for the NRA,’’ Acevedo said Monday. ‘‘So I don’t want to see their little smug faces talking 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,’’ the police chief continued. ‘‘Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers? The gun lobby? Or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?’’