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Biden nominee for ATF director says he’s never owned a gun

ATF Agent (ATF/Released)
June 17, 2022

President Joe Biden’s latest nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) told lawmakers that he has never owned a gun. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to advance his nomination.

In responses to questions from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, ATF director nominee Steven Dettelbach revealed on May 25 that he has never owned a firearm.

“Have you ever owned a firearm?” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked.

“No,” Dettelbach replied.

Dettelbach also said that he has never been issued a firearm in a professional capacity.  

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pressed Dettelbach on his calls for an “assault weapons ban” during his run for Ohio Attorney General in 2018. Cruz asked the nominee to define “assault weapons” and explain if he agrees with Biden’s position that “assault weapons” are “weapons of war.” He also asked if Dettelbach agrees with Congress’ definition of “assault weapons” as defined in the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and asked him to describe which types of guns would fall under that category.

“Currently there is no definition of assault weapon in federal law. As I said during my confirmation hearing, when I was a candidate for office, I did talk about restrictions on assault weapons, and it would be for the Congress ultimately to define that term if it chose to legislate on that issue,” Dettelbach responded. “If Congress did seek to legislate in this area, I would pledge to support those efforts with expertise, data, and technical assistance that ATF can provide to members of Congress, so Congress can make evidence-based decisions that protect the public consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Sen. Cotton also asked Dettelbach if he would support a civilian ban on 9mm ammunition.

“I have not called for such a measure, developed a policy position, or carefully considered legal issues raised by this hypothetical measure and therefore cannot provide analysis of it. If confirmed, I will take an oath, as all Department employees do, to support and defend the United States Constitution, including the Second Amendment,” Dettelbach claimed.

When asked if the ATF has the authority to create or maintain a national gun registry, Dettelbach said he would be “bound” by law that prohibits the bureau from doing so.

Last month, Dettelbach swore to uphold the Constitution if confirmed while enforcing the law in an effort to reduce violent crime.

“Violent crime is increasing. Firearms violence and mass shootings are increasing. Hate crimes and religious violence are increasing, as is violent extremism,” Dettelbach said, according to Politico. “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.”

The Judiciary Committee deadlocked 11-11 in a vote along party lines on Thursday to advance Dettelbach’s nomination. A subsequent Senate motion to discharge the nomination from the Judiciary Committee was approved by a vote of 52-41. The measure clears the way for a full Senate confirmation vote which could take place as early as next week.