Texas pulls inevitable subject at ATF confirmation hearing

Tuesday’s deadly mass shooting at a Texas elementary school featured prominently during Wednesday’s Senate confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s choice to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons fire and explosives.


What do you want to know

  • Tuesday’s deadly mass shooting at a Texas elementary school featured prominently during Wednesday’s Senate confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s choice to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons fire and explosives
  • Steven Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor in Ohio, said in his opening remarks to the Judiciary Committee: “For me and for many, last night was a night when parents everywhere hug their children a little tighter. . At the end of the day, I know I made it.”
  • Dettelbach is Biden’s second choice to lead the ATF, which hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015
  • Democrats have directed their frustration at Republicans and the pro-gun lobby to keep the ATF position vacant

Steven Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor in Ohio, said in his opening remarks to the Judiciary Committee: “For me and for many, last night was a night when parents everywhere hug their children a little tighter. . At the end of the day, I know I made it.”

The ATF was among the agencies responding to the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 21 people, including 19 children, before being killed by U.S. forces. order.

Dettelbach is Biden’s second choice to lead the ATF, which has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015. The White House withdrew the nomination of Biden’s first choice, former ATF agent David Chipman, when it became clear that it was unlikely to be confirmed. Chipman’s past advocacy for an assault rifle ban and expanded background checks has drawn opposition not only from Republicans, but also from some moderate Democrats.

The events at Uvalde were impossible to ignore at the hearing.

“Yesterday 19 little girls and boys, just like my granddaughter, didn’t come home from school,” said committee chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “Two teachers lost their lives. A shooter managed to buy, at 18, two semi-automatic weapons and turn them into killing machines, killing innocent children in the classroom. I wish I could say, “Well, that’s never happened before in America.”

Democrats reiterated their calls for new gun control laws.

“I believe we need to move forward with gun violence prevention reforms that will make our laws more effective and give you more of the tools you need to save communities and individual lives,” said the Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., A Dettelbach.

“I believe in the Second Amendment,” Blumenthal continued. “It’s the law of the land. There are steps we can take that are consistent with the second amendment that will separate people from guns if they are dangerous to themselves rather, red flag laws, background checks, safe store as the law of Ethan, bans on ghost weapons and such.

Senator Chris Coons, D-Del added: “It will happen again and again until we collectively decide to find a way forward to address it responsibly.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, however, accused Democrats of wanting to “crack down on law-abiding Americans and federal gun license holders who want to follow the law, instead of armed criminals.”

Lee said there was no addressing the root causes that led to the mass shootings.

“Why is our culture suddenly producing so many young men who want to murder innocent people?” Lee asked, suggesting that factors such as fatherless children in their lives and the glorification of violence might be to blame.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, challenged the view of some conservatives that there should be armed teachers and more armed security on school campuses.

“If more guns were the answer, the United States would be the safest nation in the world,” he said. “But this is not the case.”

Democrats have directed their frustration at Republicans and the pro-gun lobby for keeping the ATF post vacant since Todd Jones stepped down in 2015. Three different acting directors have led the office since.

“This is an agency that has the technical ability to help us solve gun crimes and keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them,” Durbin said. “Do you know when was the last time there was a head of this agency, someone actually appointed as the head of the agency? Seven years ago. Under the previous president, the position remained vacant for four years. Why? Because gun groups want it vacant. They don’t want a strong agency to do their job.

“It’s despicable that the same people who tried to falsely accuse us of defunding the police have taken over one of the most important law enforcement agencies to protect Americans, to protect our children, our churches. , our mosques, our synagogues, our parks, our supermarkets – (they are) not allowed to do their jobs,” said Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J. “And we are once again sacrificing our children on the altar of inaction.”

Like Chipman, Dettelbach has previously expressed support for an assault weapons ban, having campaigned on it during his 2018 run for Ohio attorney general.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., pressed Dettelbach to define the term “assault weapon.”

“When I was running for office, I spoke about the assault weapons restrictions,” Dettelbach admitted. “I haven’t defined the term, and I haven’t gone through the process of defining that term. It would only be for Congress, if it chose to do so.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, said he had “serious concerns” about Dettlebach’s nomination.

“I fear this administration is responding to demands to focus on the ATF’s regulatory responsibilities at the expense of its law enforcement functions,” he said.

Seven former ATF directors and dozens of law enforcement officials, as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and federal law enforcement officer associations, endorsed Dettelbach.

In an encouraging sign for the nominee, Sen. Angus King, a left-leaning Maine independent who has strongly opposed Chipman’s nomination, said Wednesday he was “inclined to support” Dettelbach, saying his “attitude “was very different from Chipman’s. CNN reported.

“This guy is the right guy,” King told the network.

Dettelbach can be confirmed without Republican support if there are no Democratic defections.

Dettelbach has vowed to isolate the ATF from political interference if confirmed.

“Politics can play no role in law enforcement. None at all,” he said.

“Violent crime is on the rise,” Dettelbach said. “Gun violence and mass shootings are on the rise. Hate crimes and religious violence are increasing, as is violent extremism,” Dettelbach said. “If confirmed, I promise to do my utmost to uphold the law, uphold the Constitution of the United States, and partner with law enforcement to protect the safety and rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans.”

Jessica C. Bell