Given Art Acevedo’s long history of support for gun control legislation (the picture above is from 2018, when Acevedo walked alongside gun control activists while serving as the police chief in Houston), it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the Miami police chief’s response to the shooting over the weekend outside a rap concert that left two people dead and about two dozen injured involves putting more laws on the books.
Speaking on Face The Nation on Sunday, Acevedo demanded changes to our nation’s gun laws, even though he couldn’t explain how the new restrictions he’s backing would have prevented the targeted attack outside the south Florida banquet hall.
“It’s just an indication of the problem we have with the scourge of gun violence in this country, that we have to do much more at the federal level to stop,” Acevedo told host John Dickerson.
“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,” he said.
“We need to have universal background checks, we need to make burglarizing these licensed gun stores a federal crime with mandatory sentencing,” the chief said. “We need the federal government and both sides to address these issues.”
“Because without legislation … we’re never going to get through this summer without much more death and destruction,” he said. “The American people deserve greater safety.”
Now, I don’t really have an issue with making burglary of a federally licensed firearms dealer a federal offense, or Acevedo’s call to ensure that violent felons found in possession of a firearm face serious prison time. Where Acevedo misses the mark, however, is in his call for “universal background checks,” which do nothing to prevent criminals from illicitly obtaining a gun.
What’s more, I’d argue that a federal universal background check law would actually lead to less prison time for some prohibited persons caught with a gun.
We already have a huge problem with plea bargains in our criminal justice system; about 95% of criminal cases at both the state and federal level end up with a plea deal, and the creation of a new federal universal background check requirement would only exacerbate that problem. Federal prosecutors who originally charge someone with being a felon-in-possession can and will end up using the universal background requirement as a plea bargaining tool. Instead of violent felons ending up in federal prison for five years, in many cases they’d end up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor offense of transferring a firearm without a background check and be out of prison in less than twelve months… if they were even sentenced to prison at all.
Leave the constitutional concerns over a universal background check bill aside for a moment and just think about the practical reasons why a universal background check law is such a bad idea. There’s no way for police to proactively enforce a background check requirement on private sales, which is why states like New Mexico and Colorado have seen absolutely no impact on their crime rates after implementing a UCB law. In New Mexico, the law wasn’t used at all during the first year that it was in place, and in Colorado violent crime has actually increased every year since the law was implemented back in 2013.
Given the finite numbers of police, prosecutors, and prison cells, it makes sense to focus law enforcement resources on the relatively small number of violent offenders out there instead of imposing sweeping new restrictions on responsible gun owners like criminalizing all private transfers of firearms. If Art Acevedo is serious about ensuring that violent criminals face consequences for their actions, he needs to stop clinging to the idea that cracking down on legal gun owners is the way to do it.