ATF Director Steven Dettelbach isn’t who any of us would like helming the agency in charge of regulating firearms. While he’s better than the Biden administration’s first choice, that wasn’t exactly a high bar to clear.
We’ve seen some questionable stuff out of the ATF since Dettelbach began his tenure, and while they might not be directly because of him, it’s safe to say his influence sure didn’t hurt.
Also during his tenure, we’ve seen a return to the whole “public health crisis” claim regarding so-called gun violence. This has been a popular talking point for anti-gun physicians to claim some degree of authority, the question is whether there’s a lick of logic behind it.
For those of us on this side of the debate, there isn’t.
What’s more, based on comments at a recent forum, Dettlebach may well agree.
Dozens of hospital and healthcare executives converged on New York City for a conference to discuss their role as “leaders” in reducing criminal misuse of firearms.
Criminal misuse of firearms isn’t a public health issue nor should it be addressed as such. It’s a criminal issue caused by individuals breaking the law. These health professionals should have instead listened closer to the keynote kickoff speaker, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach’s remarks.
ATF Director Steven Dettelbach provided opening remarks. He thanked the group for their work and agreed with Dowling that “now is the time to fight,” but the director’s remarks had a notable focus that was missed in most all other discussion – the crime factor. Director Dettelbach highlighted a new report by ATF.
“The updated volume analyzes specifically America’s crime gun data,” Director Dettelbach said. “It provides more information on America’s crime guns – those are the guns used in and associated with crime.”
Director Dettelbach touched on one aspect of the report. “Over the five-year period the report covers, from 2017 to 2021, there were more than 1 million guns stolen from private individuals…,” he said. “Law-abiding gun owners don’t want their firearms stolen and they certainly don’t want them stolen and used in violent crime. Nobody breaks into a car and steals a gun to go hunting.”
Regardless, a physician or medical doctor is not needed to determine that stealing a firearm is a crime.
Now, Dettelbach may be concerned that too much talk about “public health” may shift some degree of power from the ATF to places like the CDC, thus he’s unwilling to tread that particular line, but I don’t know that it matters that much.
Either way, the idea of “gun violence” being a public health crisis is insane.
Or, more accurately, the idea that believing it to be such and not trying to address the causes of such violence is what’s insane.
Had public health officials stepped up and argued the public health crisis in question was in the minds and hearts of the people who commit these acts of violence, I doubt they’d see nearly as much pushback.
Either way, while Dettelbach was clearly willing to talk to these folks, the fact that his comments seemingly lacked any degree of agreement with this narrative is pretty telling. He had a golden opportunity to do just that and didn’t.
Again, it could be about not losing his authority on the issue, but Dettelbach was only slightly less problematic than Dave Chipman was as a nominee only because Dettlebach was quieter about his animosity toward our right to keep and bear arms, not because he was supportive of it.
So it seems bizarre that if he thought it was a public health crisis he wouldn’t say so.
The fact that he didn’t will be something we consider going forward.