Biden’s Last Pick to Run Gun Bureau Has a Warning for the New Guy

By President Joe Biden’s own account, former federal prosecutor Steve Dettelbach has a tough-on-crime record of getting “violent criminals off the street.” He’s an attorney with decades of experience tackling organized crime and corruption, and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to his previous role as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. But Dettelbach has yet to experience the intensity of his next challenge: confirmation hearings to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Trade, Firearms and Explosives. It’s historically been a particularly quixotic nomination to lead the agency that Republicans have loathed to empower. The ATF has had only one confirmed director in the past 15 years, with acting leadership becoming the norm as nominees are admonished in the Senate—often to the point of withdrawal. Even during the Trump administration, Republicans forced the former president to withdraw his nominee—Chuck Canterbury, a former police-union official—over concerns that he wouldn’t go far enough in protecting the Second Amendment. It’s a dramatic showing for a role in a mid-level agency. But when the Second Amendment is part of the conversation, the gloves quickly come off and lawmakers don’t tend to hold back on the nominee. Just ask the last guy. David Chipman, Biden’s first nominee to lead the ATF, had his nomination withdrawn seven months ago after his record as a gun-control activist, combined with a massive effort by the gun rights lobby to sink him, solidified dissent among Republicans and Democratic swing-vote Sen. Angus King (I-ME). But it was more […]

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