Houston Matters

HPD Chief Art Acevedo Reiterates, Clarifies Comments On Domestic Violence Legislation

The chief discusses his call to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

HPD Chief Art Acevedo at Houston Public Media.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has reiterated his call for lawmakers to close the so-called boyfriend loophole in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and clarified some of his recent statements on the issue following the death of one of his officers.

Following the Dec. 7 shooting death of HPD Sgt. Christopher Brewster, who was responding to a domestic violence call, Acevedo called out U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn on the issue.

Now, speaking on Houston Matters with Craig Cohen on Tuesday, Acevedo took issue with the idea that he was suggesting legislative action would’ve prevented Brewster’s death, per se.

In calling out lawmakers moments before he escorted Brewster’s body to a local funeral home, Acevedo said he merely meant to highlight the danger domestic abusers pose, citing the many homicides of women in the city connected to domestic violence.

“Men that beat women have absolutely no need for firearms to finish the job,” he said.

What Is The Violence Against Women Act?

The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994 but expired in February. Reauthorization has stalled because lawmakers are in disagreement over new provisions.

What Is The Boyfriend Loophole?

The boyfriend loophole refers to lesser protections for those in casual relationships. Some dating partners convicted of domestic violence charges are still allowed to own firearms, while federal law prohibits gun ownership for those convicted of domestic violence charges who are married, living with the victim, or who share a child with them.

American Flag at Christopher Brewster's Funeral
An American flag is suspended from a fire truck ladder outside the funeral for HPD Sgt. Christopher Brewster on Dec. 12, 2019.

Is Legislation Enough?

Even if the loophole were closed and the law reauthorized, some say it wouldn’t matter as long as law enforcement agencies and those who sell guns don't know about a buyer's prior conviction.

Local defense attorney Brett Podolsky told Houston Matters back in July that the lack of such reporting is the biggest loophole in domestic violence law and that there needs to be one repository of domestic violence convictions.

“So that all law enforcement all firearms dealers know if an individual has a record with regard to domestic violence to prevent them from purchasing or obtaining a firearm,” Podolsky said.

MORE: Ways Domestic Violence Laws Sometimes Backfire On The Victim

Emilee Whitehurst, director of the Houston Area Women's Center, says any debate over the boyfriend loophole flies in the face of what those in her organization see every single day.

“If you think just because somebody hasn’t been married, or hasn’t co-habitated that they’re not going to shoot, strangle, stalk, or harass you, you’re in denial,” Whitehurst said. “And we know — every day we answer calls from people in crisis and in danger every day from people that they’re just dating.”

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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