Attorneys general in more than a dozen Republican states are urging Senate leaders to block President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), who they say “will pursue an anti-gun political agenda under the guise of law enforcement.”
Steve Dettelbach will “merely rubber stamp” the president’s “partisan anti-gun platform,” the 15 attorneys general, led by Montana’s Austin Knudsen, wrote Wednesday to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. Dettelbach has a history of “activism to restrict” the second amendment rights of Americans, the attorneys general say, and is hostile toward gun rights.
“Steven Dettelbach is now the second person that this administration has backed as ATF Director who has a long history of anti-gun activism,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who signed the letter, told TheDCNF. “The U.S. Senate should oppose this dangerous and highly partisan nominee. Americans need an ATF Director who will crack down on criminals and enforce the law — not someone who will simply pander to the anti-gun left.”
Dettelbach, an Obama-era U.S. Attorney in Ohio, was nominated in April. Biden’s prior pick David Chipman, a gun lobbyist, had his nomination yanked after bipartisan backlash to his gun control positions.
“I’m a gun guy,” Knudsen told TheDCNF. “That’s what I do for a hobby. As someone who’s even slightly familiar with firearms, it doesn’t take listening to Joe Biden or anybody in his administration to figure out they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
The attorneys general say Dettelbach, who as The Daily Caller reported has backed gun control measures in the past, “would likely continue or even accelerate the ATF’s attempts to restrict Americans’ rights and erode constitutional restraints on federal power.”
In May 2021, the ATF put forth a rule that critics, including the attorneys general, say overreaches on its authority under the Gun Control Act of 1968. The rule would shutter 35 businesses and would cost the bureau around $1.1 million, Republican attorneys general, including Knudsen, said prior.
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ATF did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Dettelbach.
Dettelbach, who has been opposed by a myriad of pro-gun group, including the Firearms Policy Coalition, said in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that “politics can play no role in law enforcement.” The nominee was notably endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control nonprofit Biden’s prior nominee Chipman worked for that is funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
With crime skyrocketing across the country, an ATF director must be tasked with keeping “citizens safe,” the attorneys general say. But they worry that Dettelbach’s “brand of political activism” will target “law-abiding gun owners.”
“Given that serious responsibility— and the current nominee’s track record — we ask you to reject Mr. Dettelbach to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives,” the attorneys general wrote. “As Americans continue to suffer from the crime wave, the ATF desperately needs a director who will crack down on violent criminals and organizations — not one who will pursue an anti-gun political agenda under the guise of law enforcement.”
Dettelbach’s nomination was advanced last week after the Senate Judiciary Committee discharged it.
In addition to Knudsen and Paxton, the letter was signed by chief legal officers in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
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The White House declined TheDCNF’s request for comment and a spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond. A spokesman for Schumer pointed TheDCNF to the senator’s remarks last week discharging Dettelbach’s nomination out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.