Trump's Pick To Head ATF Dodges Gun Control Questions


Following the Trump administration’s decision to have the ATF change their ruling on bump stocks, coupled with the president’s comments regarding the possibility of banning suppressors, I have to admit that I’m not willing to just blindly place my trust in the White House when it comes to gun rights. The president has been a pleasant surprise for me in many ways, but he still has a bit too much NYC in him when it comes to guns, apparently.

As such, there’s ample reason to look deeply at his pick to head the ATF. In particular, does the guy who will be in charge of enforcing federal gun laws harbor anti-gun proclivities? As we saw with bump stocks, a single ATF ruling can change the landscape dramatically.

Unfortunately, the president’s pick to lead the agency is being evasive on the subject.

President Trump’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives frustrated senators Wednesday as they tried in vain to get him to reveal his opinion on the major gun-rights debates facing the country.

Appearing for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Canterbury said he is still president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, so he could not stray from that organization’s official positions.

And when asked what he would do if confirmed, Mr. Canterbury dodged, saying he couldn’t take a position until he consulted with the bureau’s other leaders.

Both Democrats and Republicans were rankled by his performance.

“Are you telling me you have no positions independent of the FOP relative to firearms and, if so, how are we, as a committee to evaluate where you stand on questions of policy?” asked Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican.

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said Mr. Canterbury’s vague answers may cost him support.

“I like straight answers, and you are being evasive,” Mr. Kennedy said. “You have been nominated to run ATF. I think every member of this panel, both my Democratic friends and Republican friends who have feelings about the Second Amendment, are entitled to know both morally and legally what you believe.”

I have to agree with Kennedy.

Canterbury’s refusal to answer the question directly is something that should be troubling for everyone, both Democrats and Republicans, which Sen. Kennedy suggested. This is a man who has been tapped to head up a law enforcement agency that is, in part, responsible for not just enforcing gun laws but also regulatory oversight of the entire firearm industry. The people charged with approving that appointment have a duty to find out what he thinks on the subject of firearms.

Now, I get that he’s still head of the FOP, but that doesn’t mean he harbors no opinions of his own. It is possible to answer the question and add that these are his opinions, not those of the FOP. People make such disclaimers all the time.

So why be cagey? Why not just answer the question?

My personal guess is that he figures the senators wouldn’t like what he had to say. While the FOP doesn’t seem to take much of a position on gun control, Canterbury may well believe it to be a good idea. He would realize that with a GOP-controlled Senate, though, being pro-gun control wouldn’t play very well, so he’s keeping mum on the topic.

That’s just my personal guess, though. With Canterbury being evasive with his answers, all anyone has is a guess.

I hope that his refusal to answer the questions directly will be interpreted negatively by the Senate and that they decide to not blindly trust the Trump administration on this. We need answers, and if Canterbury won’t give them, then the Senate needs to reject the appointment and advise the White House to pick someone who will provide them.