Biden’s Nominee to Lead ATF Faces Judiciary Committee

posted on June 8, 2022

Steve Dettelbach, President Joe Biden’s (D) nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), faced the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in late May as part of his confirmation process.

Like Biden’s previous nominee to fill the post, David Chipman, Dettelbach supports many restrictive gun-control measures, although his hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee indicated he was unwilling to admit as much.

“If confirmed, I promise to do everything I can to enforce the law, to respect the Constitution of the United States, and to partner with law enforcement to protect the safety and the rights of innocent and law-abiding Americans,” said Dettelbach in his opening statement.

Interestingly, during questioning, Dettelbach could not—or would not—define the term “assault weapon.” When asked by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) if he could do so, Dettelbach would not offer a definition.

“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,” said Dettelbach.

“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. Dettelbach did campaign for a so-called “assault weapons” ban during his run for Ohio attorney general in 2018.

“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.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also questioned Dettelbach about why there was a decrease in firearms prosecutions during his tenure as the U.S. Attorney of Northern Ohio, noting that they went back up with Dettelbach’s successor.

Dettelbach responded that his office handled cases as it came across them, so the decline in prosecutions was not a result of any policy measure.

In addition to the hearing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that “it’s never been more important to have a tough, experienced leader like Steve Dettelbach at the helm of ATF.”

As the NRA Institute for Legislative Action reported when he was nominated, “Like Chipman, Dettelbach is a dedicated gun controller with a background that proves he would be neither fair nor objective as head of ATF. When running for Ohio Attorney General in 2018, Dettelbach endorsed gun bans, restrictions on lawful firearm transfers and further expansion of prohibitions on who can lawfully possess a firearm. In short, it’s unclear what gun control measures Dettelbach doesn’t support.

“It will once again be up to gun owners to make clear that a failed anti-gun politician has no more place at the head of the ATF than a failed anti-gun lobbyist.”

Anti-gun groups, such as the Bloomberg-funded Everytown and the Brady Campaign, have, tellingly, endorsed Biden’s nomination of Dettelbach.

We will continue to keep you up to date here at on the Dettelbach’s status. To make your voice heard and support the NRA Institute for Legislative Action’s work in fighting this extreme nomination, click here.


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