Dettelbach needs to answer some tough questions

Dettelbach needs to answer some tough questions
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Steve Dettelbach was just barely confirmed to head up the ATF. In this partisan climate, that’s probably about as good as anyone was going to get.

Yet now that he’s in the job, he needs to step up and do it right.


In recent weeks, there have been issues with the ATF.

Dettelbach isn’t talking about those, however. Instead, he’s going where he can be adored and avoiding the tough questions.

In what might be the most politically fraught apolitical job in the country, the first permanent leader in years to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is steering his agency through a new era in gun control amid a surging national gun violence epidemic.

Steven Dettelbach, a Cleveland native, survived a narrow confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate this summer to become the first director of the ATF — the agency responsible for enforcing federal gun laws — since the Obama administration. Mr. Dettelbach delivered the keynote address Wednesday at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, and sat for an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and news partner KDKA-TV.

“ATF is a law enforcement agency. President Biden said this when he nominated me. Our job is public safety. It is protecting people from violent crime. That isn’t and I don’t think should be a partisan issue,” Mr. Dettelbach said in the interview.


Well, it’s going to be a partisan issue when one party wants to make just about everything to do with guns illegal and the agency you head is happy with that and another party refuses to bend over and do away with our rights, especially since the policies in question don’t actually work.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with eradicating hate in and of itself. I’m annoyed by the fact that we all know that hating anyone who doesn’t lean left will continue be encouraged by some, of course, and those people will claim they want to eradicate hate, but so be it.

What bothers me, though, is that no one there will pressure Dettelbach to talk about the shenanigans his bureau has been up to since he took over.

I’m not saying he’s directing all of this, but it’s happening under his watch. Maybe it’s the Navy in me, but what happens on a ship is the captain’s responsibility, even if he’s asleep in his cabin when it happens. That makes all of this Dettelbach’s responsibility.

And rather than address it or even go where he might be challenged on it, he shows up at a summit that actually has little to do with the ATF all things considered–yes, hateful people can harm people with guns, but there’s nothing you can do with guns that would eradicate hate–all so he can avoid confrontation.


I find it hard to believe Dettelbach is unaware of what’s been happening in his agency, either. Maybe he’s seen it on the news or maybe he knows from internal sources, but he has to be aware.

As such, I can’t help but see this as an opportunity to be seen out and about without having to deal with uncomfortable questions.

Of course, Dettelbach might actually be unaware of what’s happened. If so, he definitely wasn’t the right man for the job.

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