After the death of a police officer, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo accused Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of stalling to pass a reauthorization bill for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Acevedo claimed that passing the bill would have prevented the officer’s death, but the suspect was already in violation of the law for his possession of a firearm.
On Saturday evening, Sgt. Christopher Brewster responded to a domestic violence call from a woman who said that her boyfriend was assaulting her and was armed with two handguns.
Driving in search of the couple, Brewster found them and reportedly waved his hands to the man. The suspect fired several shots at the officer that penetrated the officer’s body armor and then fled on foot. He was arrested by police shortly after, but Brewster did not survive.
A visitation for Brewster is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 11 at Sagemont Church and his funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday at Grace Church Houston.
On Monday, before Brewster’s body was escorted to the funeral home, Acevedo gave the press comments mourning the officer’s death.
When he opened up for questions, one of the reporters asked him about gun violence.
In response, Acevedo went on a tirade against the two U.S. senators from Texas for opposing the House version of the VAWA reauthorization.
“We all know in law enforcement,” said Acevedo, “that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women Act [passed] is because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends. And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend.”
Acevedo went on to say that Brewster’s sacrifice was a result of “the cowardice of the political people that we have in office.”
However, had the reauthorization of VAWA passed the Senate before the incident, it would have had no legal effect on the circumstances surrounding Brewster’s death.
According to police records obtained by The Texan, Brewster’s killer had multiple arrests and convictions, including a Class A misdemeanor for assaulting a family member in 2015.
Under current federal law, that conviction of domestic abuse prohibited him from possessing firearms. Regardless of current legislation, then, his possession of two handguns was illegal.
Closing the so-called “boyfriend-loophole” in federal law as alluded to by Acevedo would also have had limited effect.
Supporters of the House VAWA reauthorization bill say that it will close a gap in current law that allows someone committing domestic abuse to possess or purchase firearms as long as they do not cohabitate with the person they are dating or have a child in common with them.
But according to Giffords Law Group, a gun control advocacy organization, Texas is among 23 states to have closed the purported loophole.
According to Newsweek, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) board sent a memo to its members condemning Acevedo’s remarks.
“There is a time and place for every discussion, and this was neither the time or place,” the memo reportedly states. “We are all grieving for Chris and the focus should be on him and his family and not on the Chief’s agenda … It is very clear to anyone watching, the chief owes the entire Houston Police Department an apology for hijacking this somber moment.”
Sen. Cruz also criticized Acevedo for politicizing the incident.
“All of Texas is mourning Sgt. Brewster, grieving with his family, and celebrating his heroic service keeping us safe,” said Sen. Cruz. “It’s unfortunate the chief of police in Houston seems more focused on trying to advance his own political ambitions than on supporting the brave men and women of HPD. The fact is that this killer was a criminal whom federal law already prohibited from having a gun.”
Cruz said that instead of “playing politics with tragedy,” he wants Congress to consider legislation he introduced with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to crack down on those who lie on background checks.
After meeting with President Trump on Friday, Joe Gamaldi, the president of the HPOU also emphasized the need to enforce current laws.
“While we have a national discussion about new gun laws — and that discussion is gonna rage for another thirty or forty years — we’re not even enforcing the laws that we have on the books right now,” said Gamaldi. “We need to be using the tools that we have in the toolbox now, throw the book at these criminals, and we can actually see a decrease in violent crime in our major cities instead of seeing it increase.”
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.