Steve Dettelbach, Pending New ATF Boss, Ran on Anti-Gun Ticket Supported by Everytown
On Monday, President Biden introduced Steve Dettelbach to a crowd at the White House as his latest nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"Steve is immensely qualified," said Biden, after initially mispronouncing his last name. "He served the Department of Justice for two decades. He worked side by side to support the work of federal, state, and local law enforcement, including AFT [ATF] agents."
Ohio-born Dettelbach, 57, graduated from Dartmouth then Harvard Law and worked for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division in the 1990s. From there he progressed through the ranks of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, served a stint as U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy's counsel, where he reportedly worked on criminal law policy, then, after working in the private sector for a legal and lobbying firm while he volunteered for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Resigning in 2016 just after the Trump inauguration, Dettelbach then stood as the Democrat nominee for Ohio Attorney General, running against NRA-endorsed Republican Dave Yost.
As recently detailed by the New York Times, "During an unsuccessful bid for Ohio attorney general in 2018, Mr. Dettelbach...supported an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and tighter restrictions on gun buyers with mental health issues."
At the time, he garnered the unequivocal support of Bloomberg-funded Everytown and its umbrella groups, who said, "Dettelbach is running on a platform that includes strengthening enforcement of gun safety laws in Ohio."
In the end, Dettelbach lost to Yost by four points, walking away with 47.8 percent of the vote. Since then, Everytown has sued Ohio over its "stand your ground" law and the state has moved to recognize permitless carry. Meanwhile, Yost has signed on to numerous gun reform lawsuits at the national level.
Going further into Dettelbach's past associations, during the period that he was counsel for Leahy, the eight-term Vermont Democrat was the only co-sponsor on a Senate bill to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act, a law that pro-gun groups have labeled as surrounded in misinformation.
Shortly after the announcement that he would be Biden's nomination for ATF director, anti-gun groups rushed to issue statements of support for Dettelbach.
"Steve Dettelbach will be the strong leader the ATF needs to lead a top-to-bottom overhaul of the agency, and we urge the Senate to swiftly confirm him," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown," while the Brady Campaign said, "President Biden’s nominee, Steve Dettelbach, is a prudent choice who will steward the agency well."
Dettelbach is Biden's second pick in two years to lead the federal gun regulatory agency. He withdrew his first pick, controversial retired ATF agent David Chipman, when it became clear he lacked enough congressional support to become confirmed.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the American firearms industry that took the rare step of opposing Chipman, has misgivings about the new candidate for the job.
"NSSF is committed to a thorough examination of Dettelbach’s record and qualifications and will listen carefully to his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee," said the group in a statement emailed to Guns.com. "NSSF has significant concerns regarding Dettelbach’s previous public statements supporting bans on Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs), or AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, universal background checks, which are unworkable without a national firearm registry that is already forbidden by federal law, and extreme-risk protection orders, or so-called 'red flag' laws, without protections for Due Process considerations."
The Firearms Policy Coalition likewise is opposed to Biden's second choice.