ATF Director Can’t Define a Firearm Type He Wants to Ban

posted on April 22, 2023

Proponents of gun control routinely call for “assault weapons” to be banned, most notably, and probably most frequently, President Joe Biden (D). So when Steve Dettelbach, who Biden nominated to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was asked to define what, exactly, an “assault weapon” is, you’d think his response would at least be informed.

When appearing before a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee, Dettelbach was asked by Rep. Jake Ellzey (R), “in 15 seconds, would you define an ‘assault weapon’ for me?”

“I’ll go shorter than that, because honestly, if Congress wishes to take that up, I think Congress would have to do the work, but we would be there to provide technical assistance. I, unlike you, am not a firearms expert to the same extent as you may be, but we have people at the ATF who can talk about velocity of firearms, what damage different kinds of firearms cause, so that whatever determination you chose to make would be an informed one,” said Dettelbach.

So Dettelbach is not, by his own admission, an “expert” on guns, and he is leading the ATF? Moreover, his word salad non-answer further shows that the term “assault weapon” is an ambiguous, politically malleable term used by gun controllers like Biden and, interestingly enough, Dettelbach himself.

During his campaign to be attorney general of Ohio in 2018, Dettelbach called for bans on “assault weapons,” which was brought up during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year. Amazingly, he couldn’t define what an “assault weapon” was then either, yet he wanted to ban them.

When asked by Sen. Tom Cotton (R) to define the term “assault weapon,” Dettelbach said, “Senator, when I was a candidate for office, I did talk about restrictions on assault weapons; I did not define the term and I have not gone through the process of defining the term.”

“So, you’re running for public office and you called for a ban on assault weapons, but you don’t have a definition on ‘assault weapons?’” said Cotton in response. “I think it’s very telling that you’re nominated to lead the ATF and you don’t have a definition of ‘assault weapon,’” said Cotton after some more back and forth.

Dettelbach, predictably, secured an endorsement in this race for Ohio AG from the Michael Bloomberg-funded gun-control group Everytown, though he ultimately lost to NRA-endorsed Dave Yost (R).

He was, however, confirmed to head the ATF after this hearing last year, despite his inability to define something that he and Biden seek to ban.


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