President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new nominee to serve as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Monday, and gun rights activists are already raising concerns about his past gun control advocacy.
On Monday, the White House announced Biden is putting forth Steve Dettelbach to serve as the ATF’s director.
“Dettelbach is a highly respected former U.S. Attorney and career prosecutor who spent over two decades as a prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice,” the White House said. “He has received bipartisan praise and support from law enforcement for his work. In 2009, he was unanimously confirmed for his position as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. He has a proven track record of working with federal, state, and local law enforcement to fight violent crime and combat domestic violent extremism and religious violence – including through partnerships with the ATF to prosecute complex cases and take down violent criminal gangs.”
Fox News reported that Dettelbach has also received endorsements from former law enforcement officials and federal prosecutors who were appointed under both Republican and Democrat administrations. Rod Rosenstein, a former deputy attorney general under President Donald Trump, said Dettelbach “has spent many years fighting violent crime and illegal guns, and he will continue that important work as Director of ATF.”
While Dettelbach has support from a bipartisan group of former federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials, gun rights groups raised issue with his connections to the gun control advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
“With Dettelbach’s nomination, President Biden has chosen to double-down on his attempt to put a gun control advocate in charge of the agency responsible for regulating America’s firearms industry,” the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) said of the nomination.
Dettelbach is the second nominee Biden has put forth to lead the ATF in the past year. Biden nominated Chipman to lead the ATF in April 2021, but his own record of support for gun control groups came under scrutiny and Biden withdrew the nomination after bipartisan opposition.
“Like Chipman, Dettelbach is a dedicated gun controller with a background that proves he would be neither fair nor objective as head of ATF,” NRA-ILA said Monday. “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.”
NRA-ILA said, “Michael Bloomberg’s astroturf gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety (David Chipman’s former employer) endorsed Dettelbach in his bid to become Ohio’s Attorney General.”
Comments Dettelbach has made about gun control policies have also resurfaced following the Biden administration’s announcement on Monday. During his 2018 Ohio Attorney General campaign, Dettelbach told WOSU news he supports reinstating the 1994 federal ban on “assault-style weapons.”
The 1994 legislation banned semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting detachable magazines that have two or more of the following features: a folding or telescoping stock; pistol grip; bayonet mount; flash hider or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one or a grenade launcher. The legislation also banned semi-automatic pistols capable of accepting detachable magazines that have two more of the following features: a magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip; threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor; barrel shroud safety feature that prevents burns to the operator, a manufactured weight of 50 ounces (1.41kg) or more when the pistol is unloaded, a semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.
During his 2018 Ohio Attorney General campaign, Dettelbach also said Republican opponent Dave Yost’s plan to protect schools by arming teachers and staff with prior military or law enforcement experience was a bad idea.
“I think this is a politician’s plan quite frankly I mean it doesn’t protect people in any meaningful way it’s more than a day late and much more than a dollar short,” Dettelbach said of Yost’s plan at the time.
“Ohio voters wisely rejected Dettelbach and his gun control promises in 2018,” the NRA-ILA said Monday. “But, Dettelbach’s unpopular views on the Second Amendment put him in line with the most anti-gun presidential administration in American history. 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.”
The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) also issued a statement in opposition to Dettelbach’s nomination.
“It is the National Association for Gun Rights’ contention that the President should be in the business of upholding and defending the Second Amendment instead of nominating an ATF director who would undermine and destroy it,” NAGR said.
“Nothing in Dettlebach’s background leads us to believe that he would ever side with law-abiding gun owners when it comes to protecting our right to keep and bear arms,” NAGR President Dudley Brown said. “You can be confident we will do everything in our power to derail his confirmation and do what the president should be doing: restoring the Second Amendment.”
The Biden administration announced Dettelbach’s nomination on the same day it announced new gun control efforts. The new gun control efforts would classify certain unserialized, privately-assembled kits as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. The new gun control measures would also require licensed gun dealers to turn over all firearms purchase records if and when they go out of business.