Biden reportedly to try again to nominate ATF chief

Biden reportedly to try again to nominate ATF chief
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

President Joe Biden wanted to make an appointment to head up the ATF. Unfortunately for him, his pick was David Chipman, a complete and total disaster in every meaningful way.


But no one believed for a moment that Biden wouldn’t try again.

Well, reports have now surfaced that he, in fact, is going for it once more.

President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as early as this month, according to multiple people familiar with the White House’s planning.

Deliberations are ongoing but Steve Dettelbach, a former federal attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, is seriously being considered by the White House for the post, two of those people and one official within the Senate Democratic Caucus, told POLITICO.

After withdrawing the president’s first ATF nominee, David Chipman, in September, the White House is expected to pick someone who could have a smoother path to Senate confirmation. If Biden’s next nominee is able to secure 50 votes, it would be the first time the ATF has had a permanent director since 2015.

During an unsuccessful run for attorney general of Ohio in 2018, Dettelbach called for reinstating the assault weapons ban and universal background checks on gun purchases—two positions that have sparked GOP opposition to past nominees. A U.S. attorney from 2009 to 2016, he sought a return to that post last year. He has supporters in high places. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has been pushing him as a nominee for ATF director, according to four people familiar with the conversations.

Of course, Dettelbach’s name may have been leaked as something of a trial balloon. If everyone explodes over it, they’ll know he won’t get confirmed and they can get back to the drawing board without losing the political capital they’d lose if another nominee went down in flames.


Frankly, they’re deluded if they believe the people who so vehemently opposed Chipman won’t oppose Dettelbach.

As noted, he’s in favor of an assault weapon ban and universal background checks. Both of those are non-starters as far as anyone on this side of the debate is concerned.

Yes, I know, the ATF director doesn’t create law, at least in theory. However, we’ve noticed these activist types have a habit of looking at directorships as a way of creating law without creating law. The ATF is tasked with “interpreting” the gun laws and enforcing them. After the bump stock ban, though, we see just how broadly they can use that authority to reshape the firearm landscape.

So yeah, we’re all a little ticky about who gets to helm the ATF.

Dettelbach may be the kind who thinks that despite his personal opinions, he should interpret the law as narrowly as possible and may legitimately despise what the ATF has done with such broad regulations. However, nothing I’ve seen so far suggests that he’s remotely the type.

If not, then we have a big problem if he’s nominated.

Then again, who really thinks Biden will nominate anyone better?

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