Grassley calls out Biden's ATF pick for wanting "expansive gun control"

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool

The White House is adamant in portraying former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach as a non-partisan, non-ideological, middle-of-the-road nominee to head up the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, but there’s a big problem with that effort: Dettelbach is actually none of those things.

The former U.S. Attorney is also a former Democratic candidate for Ohio’s Attorney General, and his 2018 campaign (in which he ended up losing to current A.G. Dave Yost) was replete with calls for new gun control laws and digs at Second Amendment activists and organizations. NRA-ILA recently highlighted a few of the positions Dettelbach took on the campaign trail that are already having an impact on some of the senators who’ll be casting a vote on his confirmation.

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.

This led NRA-PVF to award Dettelbach an “F” for his positions on the right to keep and bear arms. Notably, Michael Bloomberg’s astroturf gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety (David Chipman’s former employer) endorsed Dettelbach in his bid to become Ohio’s Attorney General.

The main difference between Dettelbach and Chipman when it comes to gun control is that one of them received the endorsement of gun control groups and the other actually received a paycheck. As far as their views, however, there doesn’t appear to be any difference at all, and that has the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee decidedly unimpressed with Biden’s pick. Sen. Charles Grassley not only criticized Joe Biden’s myopic focus on “ghost guns” on Tuesday, but took a few swipes at Dettelbach as well.

The Iowa lawmaker is also casting doubt on Biden’s recently nominated director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steven Dettelbach, whom Grassley says “lack(s) awareness of the circumstances surrounding legal gun acquisition” and favors “expansive gun control.”

“A director must, at a minimum, demonstrate that he or she respects the Second Amendment rights of Americans and can deal fairly with the firearms industry,” Grassley said in a press release Tuesday.

Grassley in the release also highlights what he calls Dettelbach’s “social media activism” and suggests it raises a red flag for his abilities to perform a role that includes “having an appreciation for thee role that firearms play in the lives of Americans,” as well as serving as a liaison to the firearms business community.

I hope Grassley cc’ed his colleagues Joe Manchin and Angus King on his press release. The pair were instrumental in defeating David Chipman’s nomination as ATF director last year, and so far have not committed to supporting Dettelbach.

I find it hard to believe that after suffering such an embarrassing and high-profile defeat, the White House wouldn’t have received at least a tentative commitment from Manchin and King, but then again, I’ve seen a lot of inexplicable decisions come out of the White House since Biden was inaugurated. And the voters in West Virginia and Maine also have a chance to weigh in, so even if the pair previously indicated their support, if their constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to Dettelbach that could sway how Manchin and King end up casting their vote.

Biden could have nominated someone who doesn’t have a history of vocally calling for new gun laws, like acting ATF Director Marvin Richardson, but that wouldn’t have appeased the gun control lobby, so he’s once again rolling the dice on a candidate that should be unacceptable to at least 51 senators. Now it’s up to gun owners to make their voices heard, and to demand our senators reject any and all candidates (including Dettelbach) who would turn the ATF into a gun control group with law enforcement powers.