Why don't Texas' U.S. senators want to take convicted abusers' guns?
Is this question, posed by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, fair?:
"Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers? The gun lobby? Or the children that are getting gunned down in the country every single day?"
You might consider it a loaded question, so to speak, especially if you cherish your Second Amendment rights — if you didn't know the full context. Acevedo was waiting to escort the body of a slain officer to a funeral home.
The officer was shot while responding to a report of an armed man beating his girlfriend. The accused killer is a convicted abuser.
Acevedo's remarks were aimed at Texas' two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell because they are against closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole" in the Violence Against Women Act. The National Rifle Association also opposes it. The current law, up for renewal, prohibits gun ownership by spouses or people who have children in common who are convicted domestic abusers, but doesn't apply to "dating partners."
DID A LOOPHOLE KILL THE OFFICER?
No. In this country where the guns outnumber the people, the accused killer could have obtained a gun easily enough even if the loophole had been closed. Also, Cornyn's office pointed out that there's already a Texas law prohibiting gun possession by anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence within the past five years. The suspect has a conviction less than five years old and therefore was prohibited by law from having the gun he had, nevertheless.
So, Cornyn, Cruz, McConnell and the NRA can declare with conviction that loopholes — like guns — don't kill people, people do. Those senators might want to word it differently to sound less insensitive, so soon after an officer died in the line of duty. But that's their position.
If you agree with them, and if you also consider yourself pro-law enforcement, as those senators undoubtedly do, Acevedo would tell you you're wrong.
"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 are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women's 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 Monday while waiting to escort the corpse. "And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend."
Those dots are hard to disconnect. The best our senators can do is try to redirect our attention. For example:
THE IMPEACHMENT CONNECTION?
This is a tweet by Cornyn about the Violence Against Women Act impasse: "Unfortunately, important legislation like this has fallen casualty to impeachment mania."
Here's why not to believe Cornyn: All of the impeachment process, thus far, has been in the House, not the Senate.
Assuming, as Cornyn evidently does, that the Senate can't impeach and chew gum — unlike the House, which got its end of the North American Free Trade Agreement done while proceeding on impeachment — now is the Senate's big opportunity to approve important legislation. So, no, the Violence Against Women Act is not a casualty of impeachment.
Cornyn also claims that the Democrats "took the easy way out" because Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., filed a separate version of the Violence Against Women Act to include the boyfriend-loophole closure.
Which one sounds to you like the easy way out? Filing the alternative bill to close the loophole and digging in to fight for it, or saving yourself the effort because the Republicans outnumber you anyway?
It's not a trick question.
Closing the boyfriend loophole does not encroach on the gun rights of law-abiding citizens. It encroaches on the gun rights of convicted abusers, a category of people who have demonstrated why they shouldn't have access to guns.
Closing the loophole is not an attack on the Second Amendment. Acevedo is right to draw his line in the sand and demand to know which side Cornyn and Cruz choose. They'll have to change their stance if they are to stand on the side of slain Houston police Sgt. Christopher Brewster, 32, and his family.
This should be easy for Cornyn and Cruz.
Texas leaders are faced with harder decisions, deeper lines to draw, at both the state and federal levels, that also can save lives without imperiling the Second Amendment, such as magazine limits, red-flag laws, an expansion of background checks, safe-storage requirements, and backing away from open carry.
We are still waiting, with growing impatience, for Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the Legislature to consider remedies to mass shooting and other gun violence, so that it doesn't wait until 2021.