By Lee Williams
SAF Investigative Journalism Project
Senate hearings for Joe Biden’s second nominee to head the ATF, Steve Dettelbach, could begin as early as next week, Sen. Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Politico.
Officials withing the Biden-Harris administration have said they hope to refocus on Dettelbach’s nomination after the mass murder in Buffalo, New York.
When Dettelbach, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for Ohio Attorney General in 2018, he was endorsed by Biden, Barack Obama and Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Dettelbach is running on a platform that includes strengthening enforcement of gun safety laws in Ohio, and he supports closing the background check loophole and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. His opponent, Dave Yost, is endorsed by the NRA,” Everytown announced in a 2018 press release. “Everytown is all-in on the midterm elections and gun violence survivors and volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will be knocking on doors and making calls to elect Dettelbach and other gun sense candidates.”
Everytown quickly endorsed Dettelbach to head the ATF because of his history of support for “assault weapon” and standard-capacity magazine bans, universal background checks and Red-Flag laws, as have several groups that represent police chiefs, sheriffs and other law enforcement executives.
The president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents 26,000 federal officers, wrote that Dettelbach has a “proven history of working with law enforcement agencies, corrections officials, advocates, stakeholders, and elected officials across the political spectrum.”
Most recently, a group of 140 ex-Justice Department employees endorsed Dettelbach, saying he will “will help keep our communities safe by taking gun traffickers and other violent criminals off our streets.”
Biden’s first choice to run the ATF, David Chipman, was rejected by the Senate due to the uproar his nomination created within the gun-rights community, which balked because Chipman was a paid, anti-gun extremist.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which “vehemently opposed” Chipman’s nomination, calling him “entirely unqualified to hold a position of public trust,” has concerns about Dettelbach, too.
“NSSF is committed to a thorough examination of Dettelbach’s record and qualifications and will listen carefully to his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. NSSF has significant concerns regarding Dettelbach’s previous public statements supporting bans on Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs), or AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, universal background checks, which are unworkable without a national firearm registry that is already forbidden by federal law, and extreme-risk protection orders, or so-called “red flag” laws, without protections for Due Process considerations. Dettelbach was also previously endorsed by the gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, for his support for policies restricting Second Amendment rights,” said in a statement last month.
The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund awarded Dettelbach an “F” when he ran for Ohio Attorney General in 2018. The organization strongly opposes his nomination to head the ATF, and has urged its members to take action.
“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,” NRA said in a statement.
After Chipman’s stunning defeat, the Biden-Harris administration seems to have learned a lesson. White House staffers are laying a better foundation for Dettelbach than they did Chipman. They’re putting in the work, so to speak. They let Chipman sink or swim on his own, and he quickly sunk, so they’re a lot more careful with Biden’s second choice.
Compared to Chipman, Dettelbach may be a charmer. The Senate hearings will be telling. However, when you consider their lack of respect for the right to keep and bear arms and their inability to serve as a fair and objective regulator of the firearms industry, Biden’s two nominees are eerily the same.
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