Biden: New ATF Boss to Oversee 'Robust Implementation' of Gun Control
The White House on Tuesday praised the narrow confirmation of the new Everytown-endorsed director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Steve Dettelbach, introduced in April by President Biden as "immensely qualified" to run the "AFT," was confirmed 48-46 in the Senate this week. Not even securing 51 votes in the 100-seat chamber, two Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio – crossed the aisle to secure his confirmation at a time when several lawmakers in the gerontocratic body were out with health issues.
Dettelbach, a former Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney, most recently campaigned for a spot as Ohio's Attorney General in 2018, during which the New York Times confirmed he "supported an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and tighter restrictions on gun buyers." During that campaign, in which NRA-endorsed Republican Dave Yost defeated him, he was endorsed by anti-gun groups such as Everytown.
On Tuesday, Biden welcomed Dettelbach to the team as the first ATF director confirmed by the Senate since B. Todd Johnson resigned seven years ago in the wake of a series of scandals the agency faced during the Obama administration.
"We have so much more to do," said Biden. "I will continue to call on Congress to build on this momentum and ban assault weapons, expand background checks, and pass safe storage laws. At the same time, my Administration will build on our record of taking historic executive action. And as ATF Director, Steve will play a leading role in ensuring robust implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and driving forward other executive actions to fight crime and save lives."
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act referenced by Biden was breathlessly rushed through Congress in four days and includes lots of social spending for gun control measures, including $750 million in taxpayer funds to seize guns from individuals who are "red-flagged" as a result of constitutionally suspect ex parte orders issued even without a crime being suspected.
Another key feature of the 80-page law signed by Biden last month is one that adds new language to what it means to the ATF for a person to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, with the president describing it as a victory lap event for the package this week saying, "It clarifies who needs to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a single weapon."
Everytown and its subsidiaries celebrated the win by the administration.
"A strong, Senate-confirmed ATF director like Steve Dettelbach is crucial to going after both white supremacists and the rogue gun dealers who are flooding our streets with illegal guns,” said Melody McFadden with Moms Demand Action in a press release.
Meanwhile, the Firearms Policy Coalition blasted the latest addition to the administration.
"The Senate failed the People today," said the pro-2A group. "The purpose of agency directors is to serve ministerial duties, not to subvert law and cheerlead the abrogation of our rights. By confirming an anti-rights zealot to helm one of the nation’s most infamous agencies, the Senate has all but promised that the ATF will continue, or even worsen, its violations of the trust of the People."
Steven Dettelbach – who aggressively promoted "universal background checks" and "assault weapon" bans – will serve as the first permanent ATF director since Byron Todd Jones, who stepped down in 2015. "ATF has a storied history of civil rights violations, arming cartels, and not to mention the commission of atrocities such as those at Waco, Texas. It cannot be understated how concerning it is that an anti-rights zealot will now be taking the helm of that agency," noted the Firearms Policy Coalition on Twitter.