Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo discusses two recent deadly shootings in South Florida as well as a bill Texas' governor is likely to sign into law that would allow people to carry handguns in public without a license, background check or training.
JOHN DICKERSON: There has been an uptick in violent crime in major cities recently. Breaking overnight in Miami-Dade, two people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a mass shooting at a concert at a banquet hall. Art Acevedo is the Chief of Miami Police. Good morning, Chief.
ART ACEVEDO: Hey, good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: So I know this shooting was not in your jurisdiction, but can you tell us anything more about what happened last night?
ART ACEVEDO: Well, I can tell you that's the second shooting in the greater Miami-Dade area. We had our own shooting the night before, where seven people were shot and one dead. So that's 30 shot, two dead in the greater Miami area, metro Dade area, Miami-Dade area. And it's just an indication of the problem we have with the scourge of gun violence in this country that we need to do much more at a federal level to stop.
JOHN DICKERSON: You wrote-- after that shooting on Friday night, you wrote, "Mass shootings continue to occur on a regular basis across our country and yet elected officials only talk about the militarization of the police on the left and gun rights on the right. Gun violence is a public health epidemic our nation needs to address." How do you think that public health epidemic, as you call it, should be addressed?
ART ACEVEDO: Well first and foremost, they need to come out of their own corners, the left and the right, and come to the middle, which is where most Americans are. We need to have universal background checks. We need to-- we need to make burglarizing these licensed gun stores a federal crime with mandatory sentencing.
And we need the federal government and both sides to address this issue, because without legislation and without certainty as it relates to holding these criminals accountable, we're never going to get through this summer without much more death and destruction. Not to mention the fact that our criminal court system across this country is absolutely at a standstill. They are not moving cases, thousands of felons running around and cases languishing three to five, six years before they even go to court. We've got to get our system back-- back on track.
JOHN DICKERSON: Is that backlog of cases, which has been the result of the pandemic, is that related to the gun violence? Or is that just an adjacent issue that you're concerned about?
ART ACEVEDO: I think that that backlog started before the pandemic. In, for example, Harris County, where I came from in Houston, there are 60,000 felons running around facing charges, almost 2,000 murderers running around, and our criminal justice system is at a standstill. It's time for the president, Congress, and governors to get our court system up and running.
It's OK to focus on making policing better, but I assure you there weren't 30 police officer shootings in metro Dade County this weekend. The American people deserve greater safety, and it starts with the presidential commission, getting our criminal justice system back online, and having real consequences for these felons that are carrying these firearms that are not afraid of death, but they are afraid of state prison. And we need to deliver some safety to the American people.
JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned that you were the chief in Houston. In Texas, legislators approved a bill earlier this week that allows people to carry handguns in public without a licensed background check or training. The governor is likely to sign that into law. So as the police try to do their job, will that help or hurt the police do their job?
ART ACEVEDO: Look, there's something that God gave us and that's common sense. And common sense tells us that that is ridiculous. Law enforcement, police chiefs, sheriffs, police labor stood up together and made it real clear we do not support constitutional carry here in Texas or anywhere in this country. And so most American gun owners don't support constitutional carry.
But again, it's a slogan, it appears if Governor Abbott signs that, that we support the "blue." They only support the blue in word. It's now a time to support the blue, indeed, by vetoing that bill. You're either with law enforcement or you stand with the fringe that believe that everybody should have a firearm, regardless of their character, their capabilities, or their mental capacity.
JOHN DICKERSON: So what-- what does that mean on the police end, though, if guns are being on-- carried in that manner?
ART ACEVEDO: That means that we will not be able to even question someone as to their intent. That means that we won't be able to take any action until that person draws that firearm, walks into that theater, and decides to shoot. We are better than this. Americans are better than this. And I think it's time for the-- the common sense to rule the day instead of the-- the rhetoric and the out of touch left and right. And sadly, the rest of us are stuck here in the middle.
JOHN DICKERSON: You are the president of the Major Cities Police Association, and that association reported some numbers on crime in this year so far, 22% increase in homicides, 8.5% increase in aggravated assaults. Why is-- why are those numbers up?
ART ACEVEDO: Well, it's multi- multi reasons. Number one, we have been dealing with COVID. Number two, our American court system has been pretty much shut down. There haven't been jury trials in large numbers in a long time across our country. And number three, we've entered an era in our American psyche where our politicians have forgotten how violent our cities used to be, so we've fallen in love with criminal justice reform.
And for example, in Harris County, you've got Commissioner Rodney Ellis who believes that no one should be held pre-conviction because this is a constitutional right. Well, I've got news for Mr. Ellis, go talk to the people in Harris County who are being shot, gunned down, the children are being buried because we're not holding people pretrial. And the last thing is we have not been taking these criminals to court, putting them through trials.
When it's taken three to five years to put people through a trial and they're running free, the results are what we're seeing, a tremendous increase in gun violence in this country. And unless we all start speaking up, speaking out, and demanding our elected officials take action, we're going to see a lot more bloodshed. And I'm very sad to say that this summer's going to be a long summer for the American people.
JOHN DICKERSON: A year ago, George Floyd was killed. And you said, "It makes me worry about the good police officers and it makes me worried about the extended community." A year later, what's your state of worry in the country? And what's your view on the police reforms that you've seen so far?
ART ACEVEDO: What's significant? It's significant because the George Floyd Act, it seems that both sides are at a standstill. The Major City Chiefs have put together some very thoughtful positions on this. And we're hoping that the members of Congress will take heed and use it as guiding principles and document. But my worry, and I think the worry of my colleagues across the country, is that as we continue to talk about defunding the police instead of making the police better and investing on good policing, and then on the right we're talking about--
JOHN DICKERSON: Right.
ART ACEVEDO: --more guns for everybody--
JOHN DICKERSON: Chief--
ART ACEVEDO: --it's going to be a long summer.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Chief, we've run out of time. We're very grateful for your time. Stay safe.