Houston police chief criticizes McConnell and Senate Republicans over guns: ‘Whose side are you on?’

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican lawmakers for not reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and taking action against gun violence, asking them in emotional remarks to choose between the nation’s foremost gun lobby and “the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day.”

Acevedo made his remarks to reporters Monday as the Houston Police Department prepared to escort the body of Sgt. Chris Brewster, an officer who died in the line of duty, to a funeral home. The 32-year-old was shot and killed while responding to a call with a team on Saturday.

“I don’t want to hear about how much they support law enforcement,” Acevedo said. “I don’t want to hear about how much they care about lives and the sanctity of lives yet, we all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and (Texas Sens.) 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 (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. So you’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you’re here for the (National Rifle Association).”

He continued: “So I don’t want to see their little smug faces talking about how much they care about law enforcement when I’m burying a sergeant because they don’t want to piss off the NRA. Make up your minds, whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers, the gun lobby, or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day.”

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was enacted in 1994, has stalled in Congress. The bill provides grants and support to various groups that work on issues relating to sexual assault and domestic violence and prevention, among other things.

In April, the House voted to reauthorize the act after it lapsed earlier this year. Democrats declined to extend it, wanting to pass their own reauthorization for another five years instead.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa had worked on a Senate version that aimed to be more bipartisan, but discussions fell apart. Last month, Ernst introduced her own version of the VAWA that extends the act by 10 years and Feinstein introduced a Senate version of the House bill.

CNN has reached out McConnell for comment.

A spokesman for Cruz said the congressman “is currently reviewing Violence Against Women Act legislation in the Senate.”

“For many years, Senator Cruz has worked in law enforcement, helping lead the fight to ensure that violent criminals — and especially sexual predators who target women and children — face the very strictest punishment,” the spokesman also said in the email to CNN.

Cornyn’s office on Monday blamed Democrats for delayed action on the VAWA.

“The Violence Against Women Act is still fully funded despite what the Chief implied. And he’s got it backwards — Democrats in DC walked away from negotiations and that’s when it fell apart,” Cornyn’s office said in an email. They also pointed to Cornyn’s remarks last month in which he said Democrats “took the easy way out and simply walked away and introduced their own partisan reauthorization, one that they know has no chance of passing.”

“Despite the games being played here, my Republican colleagues and I are working to put in the hard work that it takes to actually accomplish something and legislate,” he said at the time.

VAWA programs, though, are technically still being funded.

Congress has also struggled to pass gun control legislation, even in the aftermath of mass shootings. Democrats have expressed frustration with McConnell for not pushing for gun control legislation and have called for immediate action.