When he was up for confirmation to his post as head of the ATF, Director Steve Dettelbach said that he would use the tools that Congress provided for him. He even famously refused to define the term “assault weapon,” saying it was up to the legislative branch of government to do so.
Yet, as Cam noted last week, Dettelbach has decided to openly advocate for an assault weapon ban.
As such, we shouldn’t be surprised the NSSF has a response.
He hedged and added it’s Congress that should define what that term means, but the director knows Congress has not banned the commonly-owned firearms. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004 and since, Congress hasn’t attempted to send a bill banning the most popular-selling centerfire rifle to the president. That’s true for when either party held majorities in the House and Senate, respectively, including when Democrats controlled the House, Senate and The White House.
Director Dettelbach’s references to “assault weapon” are, of course, the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles, or Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs). President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for the firearms to be banned and Vice President Kamala Harris added her support for reinstating a ban. The calls for banning more than 24.4 million MSRs in circulation are happening against the backdrop of elevated levels of lawful firearm purchases. They’re also at a time when more Americans oppose such a ban and millions of Americans, including millions of first-time gun buyers, purchasing AR-15-style rifles as their preferred firearm for self-defense, recreational target shooting and hunting. The MSR uses the same one-trigger-pull-one-round-fired technology common in firearms for over a century.
Director Dettelbach – who has joined NSSF at public events to highlight the firearm industry’s efforts to keep communities safe – left out nearly any mention of the hard work the firearm industry does to keep Americans safe, including many long-standing partnerships with ATF. It would have been the right thing to do – especially given the audience – to highlight these partnerships. Sadly, it wasn’t mentioned.
The ATF director’s choices to ignore the firearm industry’s role in keeping Americans safe and his unprecedented call for gun control and his smear of veterans, of which there are thousands employed within our industry, threatens to undermine a relationship that has promoted public safety, protected communities from criminals and preserved the lawful transfer of, and commerce in firearms.
The “smear of veterans” involved Dettelbach’s characterization of the Kennedy Amendment that protects veterans from VA overreach as supposedly lowering the barriers on gun purchases by “incompetent” veterans.
That’s not remotely what’s going on.
Now, I agree that Dettelbach’s comments are inappropriate. He had the chance to voice his support for an assault weapon ban during his confirmation, which he declined to do. Considering how it hurt the previous nominee, I’m not surprised he made the comments he made. There was no chance of him getting confirmed otherwise.
But that doesn’t make it less problematic that he’s making them now.
Plus, considering where he was and the subject matter at hand, it would have been perfectly justified to note that the NSSF has worked closely with the ATF on several things meant to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
That’s perfectly reasonable, if you ask me.
Assault weapon bans and universal background checks–another subject Dettelbach gets taken to task for–aren’t going to make us the least bit safer. They’re not going to reduce mass shootings or reduce more pedestrian forms of violent crime.
All they’ll do is inhibit the actions of law-abiding citizens. Dettelbach knows this, yet he doesn’t care.
The ATF and gun owners should be partners in many ways, but instead there is an antagonism between us and the agency that shouldn’t be our problem. That’s because of attitudes like Dettelbach’s, though they long predate his time with the ATF.
They want to control every aspect of what we do with guns and they resent anyone who won’t let them get away with it, which is why the NSSF didn’t get a mention.