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Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political'

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is standing by his searing criticism of Republican senators over Congress's failure to take action on gun violence and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

"To the people who say this is political — this is not political," Acevedo told CNN about remarks he made after a city police officer was killed while responding to a domestic violence incident. "Death is not political — you see, death is final.

Acevedo vehemently denounced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWashington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Ky.) and Texas's GOP senators, John CornynJohn CornynGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Seth Rogen says he's not in a feud with 'fascist' Ted Cruz, whose 'words caused people to die' GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump MORE, on Monday during a press conference following the death of Sgt. Chris Brewster. Brewster was shot and killed last weekend after responding to a call from a female victim who reported that her boyfriend assaulted her and was armed with two guns. 

Acevedo asserted that he was "burying a sergeant" because the GOP senators would not take action on the Violence Against Women Act out of fear that they would "piss off" the National Rifle Association (NRA).

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“We all know in law enforcement that this is 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, 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," Acevedo said, apparently referencing a loophole in a federal law that bars spouses, ex-spouses, live-in partners and people who have children together from possessing a gun if they've been convicted of domestic violence. The policy does not apply to boyfriends. 

The House in April passed the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act with a provision eliminating the so-called boyfriend loophole. But the legislation has stalled in the Senate, with many Republicans arguing the House bill goes too far.  

"The question is simple: 'Do you, Senator Cruz, support closing the boyfriend loophole that's in that [Violence Against Women Act] law, yes or no?' " Acevedo asked. "Because if you look at the response from the elected officials in the Senate, not one of them addressed the loophole. You know why? Because you're on the wrong side of history. That's why."
 
Cornyn pushed back against Acevedo's criticism, telling CNN on Wednesday that Texas already has laws in place to block those convicted of domestic abuse from obtaining firearms. Federal law also mandates that persons will be barred possessing firearms or ammunition if they have been convicted of domestic violence. Cornyn said that Acevedo's argument about the Violence Against Women Act was "mistaken." 
 
The suspect who allegedly killed Brewster reportedly has a 2015 conviction for assaulting a family member. 
 
"Under current law, the shooter would've been legally disqualified from purchasing a firearm," Cornyn said. "So I regret [Acevedo] took the occasion, the sad occasion, of the officer's murder to try to make a political statement that was factually wrong."
 
Cornyn's comments echoed those made by the Houston Police Officers' Union following Acevedo's press conference. 

“The fact that Chief Acevedo chose that moment to make a political statement on guns, is nothing short of offensive and inappropriate,” the union's executive board said in a letter, according to KHOU 11. “There is a time and place for every discussion and this was neither the time nor the place.”

The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994 and lapsed in February amid the most recent government shutdown. The statute provides funding and grants for a variety of programs that address domestic abuse.
 
 
Acevedo has repeatedly called on his home-state senators to take action on the gun reform. Earlier this month, he called on Cornyn and Cruz to push forward the legislation, saying that "lives are being lost and destroyed due to inaction."