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“Boyfriend Loophole” wouldn’t have saved Houston cop

Earlier today I wrote about Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo turning the murder of Sgt. Christopher Brewster into a political statement against Senators Cornyn, Cruz, and McConnell. He bashed the entire Republican Party but specifically singled out those three senators.

In Chief Acevedo’s mind, if the House version of the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, currently stalled in the Senate, is passed, domestic violence between a boyfriend and girlfriend will disappear – at least as far as gun violence goes. The House included a “Boyfriend Loophole” a new provision that prohibits a current or former boyfriend convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from purchasing guns for five years after his release from jail – not just live-in boyfriends or spouses. In this case, the murderer wasn’t supposed to have a gun under current law. He was convicted in August 2015 for assault of a family member – a Class A misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 70 days in Harris County jail, with three days credit. (No, I am not naming the murder, though it will surface in quotes.) So, his five-year prohibition from purchasing guns was still in effect. He shouldn’t have been in possession of them in the first place.

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 for five years after release from jail. (The “boyfriend loophole” still also exists in the federal Gun Control Act, however.)

“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 email to The Washington Post.

A spokesman for Cruz could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday but told 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.

If Senators Cornyn, Cruz, and McConnell had voted in favor of the Boyfriend Loophole in 2013 when it was up for a vote, that vote wouldn’t have spared the life of Sgt. Brewster, either.

The cruel reality is that this animal possessed guns likely purchased on the street. His own father indicated as much. The father comes out in support of Chief Acevedo’s emotional rants but acknowledges that his son probably didn’t purchase the guns legally. His father, on parole, says he can just walk down his street and buy a gun.

“I’m on parole and I can go get one if I want one easily,” Roberto Solis said. “I can just walk down the street and get one. That’s how easy it is to get one around here.”

Arturo Solis, a convicted felon, apparently had no problem getting his hands on one.

“We need more stricter gun rules,” Solis said. “If you’re caught with a gun not registered to you something has to be done about that.”

Lawmakers can pass all the laws they want to pass but as long as there is a black market, guns will wind up in the hands of bad guys. Criminals don’t follow laws. If Chief Acevedo is really looking for solutions, how about focusing on breaking up black market dealers? Pointing fingers against those in the other political party and blaming one party for the country’s woes doesn’t win hearts and minds. Acevedo knows the law and he knows he is being disingenuous. He just doesn’t care.

The murderer’s criminal defense attorney touched on questioning how he got the gun in the first place. He is known to have a history of mental illness, according to family members, and his violent history.

During the hearing, defense attorneys raised a history of a mental illness documented as far back as his teens. It’s unclear what those illnesses might be, but Solis’ family told the Chronicle that he showed signs of schizophrenia and depression in his teens and had not been taking prescribed medication.

“The obvious question to us becomes how does a mentally ill person with prior domestic violence conviction get a handgun?” appointed defense lawyer Anthony Osso said after the appearance. “That’s really a problem for us and we want to see where there was a breakdown in the system.”

Laws are already on the books prohibiting the mentally ill from purchasing firearms but that is often gone around by black market sales, too. The point is this – anyone looking for a gun can find one whether they use legal means or not. Blaming lawmakers for that is just hyperbolic. Passing more laws, when the ones on the books aren’t fully enforced, doesn’t stop criminal behavior. It doesn’t make anyone safer, including law enforcement officers.

Perhaps Chief Acevedo should talk to Democrats and encourage them to work with Republicans on dealing with gun crime. Senator Cornyn, for example, noted that Democrats walked away from a bipartisan solution in a my-way-or-the-highway snit. Republicans (and the NRA) are concerned the Boyfriend Loophole part of the legislation passed in the House would be a poison pill – it’s too “too broad and ripe for abuse.” Cornyn supported Senator Ernst’s legislation which provides more funding for survivors and resources for rape victims.

Cornyn, a co-sponsor of Ernst’s bill, has voiced strong support for VAWA — but not for the “boyfriend loophole” version. Speaking on the Senate floor last month, he accused Democrats of abandoning negotiations and took Ernst’s side.

“They took the easy way out and simply walked away and introduced their own partisan reauthorization, one that they know has no chance of passing,” he said of the Democrats, accusing them of playing games.

The hurdle seems to be the addition of a gun-grabbing measure when such protection is already in federal law. Both parties support the actual law that now needs to be renewed. The additional hoop to jump through that was sent over from the Democrat-controlled House is what has to be dealt with by both sides. It would be redundant just to include it in the Violence Against Women Act. It looks like a feel-good measure by Democrats as a national election approaches.

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