(KXAN) - Gaps in the federal gun laws allow criminals and people with well-documented mental illnesses to easily purchase all sorts of firearms, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told a congressional task force on Friday.
"The universal background check is a first and essential step toward comprehensive reform of gun laws," Acevedo told the U.S. House' Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Without this essential element, there can be no lasting impact on gun violence – because without this legislation, guns will continue to be sold to those who are not permitted to possess a firearm."
The chief was in Washington as part of the Major Cities Chiefs Association to make the case for ending the so-called gun show loophole that allows firearms to be bought and sold without the buyer undergoing a background check.
Such checks are required for many gun purchases at retail stores and are intended to flags people with criminal records and histories of mental illness. Acevedo said that in several high-profile mass shootings, the gunmen had been diagnosed with mental disorders.
He specifically cited the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that killed several yougsters, the shootings in the Aurora, Colo., that killed several movie-goers and the one on Tuscon, Ariz., that severely wounded then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Cops like me deal with mentally ill persons every day," Acevedo said. "But we cannot do anything to stop them from buying guns unless or until Congress acts to strengthen the background check process. Without the link to mental health status, (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) cannot do the job for which it was created."
Congress is considering several bills dealing with gun violence, spurred in part by the Newtown shootings where 20 first-graders and six adults where shot and killed. The Gun Violence Prevention Task Force is an arm of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus.
The judge presiding over the trial to oust District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg ruled Wednesday that she'll stay in office.
Mack Brown’s longtime friend and attorney said Wednesday that the veteran coach of the Longhorns has not yet made a decision on his future, but that it will come soon.
The Austin City Council will take up billing errors and problems with the appeals process at Austin Energy during Thursday's meeting.
County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the buyout of 23 homes in the Timber Creek neighborhood.
Willie Nelson's nine-hole golf course in Briarcliff is up for sale and the asking price is $3 million, according to a local real estate website.
Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pontiff who won hearts and headlines with his humility and common touch, was named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2013.