By Lee Williams
Like his first choice, Joe Biden’s second choice to lead the ATF can’t define an “assault weapon” either.
Former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach testified Wednesday he would leave it to Congress to define an “assault weapon,” even though during his unsuccessful 2018 run for Ohio Attorney General Dettelbach called for an “assault weapon” ban, restrictions on standard-capacity magazines, universal background checks and Red Flag laws.
“When I was a candidate for office, I did talk about restrictions on assault weapons,” Dettelbach told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. “I did not define the term, and I haven’t gone through the process of defining that term. That would only be for the Congress if it chose to take that up.”
His non answer drew a stinging rebuke from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican and staunch Second Amendment supporter.
1) At confirmation hrng, GOP AR Sen Cotton asks ATF Dir nominee Steve Dettelbach to define an assault weapon. Dettelbach said he wanted to reinstate the assault weapons ban when he ran for Ohio AG in 2018. Dettelbach: I did not define the term.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 25, 2022
“I think it’s very telling that you’re nominated to lead the ATF and you don’t have a definition of assault weapon,” Cotton said. “The point is there is really no such thing as a category of weapons known as assault weapons. There are rifles, there are shotguns, there are pistols. They have properties, they have features, but there is no such thing as a category of assault weapon.”
The Biden-Harris administration is working overtly and covertly to get their second ATF pick confirmed. They do not want to face the public embarrassment that would follow if they lose yet another nominee.
Biden pressed the Senate to act quickly Wednesday as he was signing so-called police reform legislation, by conflating the mass murder that occurred the day before in Uvalde, Texas with Dettelbach’s nomination.
“The idea that an 18-year-old can walk into a store and buy weapons of war, designed and marketed to kill, is, I think, just wrong. It just violates common sense. Even the manufacturer – the inventor of that weapon thought that as well. You know, where is the backbone? Where is the courage to stand up to a very powerful lobby? But here is one modest step: The federal agency that measures and ensures that gun laws are enforced and the Second Amendment is abided by – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the AFT (sic) – has not had a Senate confirmation leader for seven years because of these disputes,” Biden said Wednesday. For seven years, they’ve been out – without anyone in charge. I nominated a supremely qualified former prosecutor who has broad bipartisan support from law enforcement and the community overall. His hearing was held easier today – earlier today, I should say. The Senate should confirm him without delay, without excuse. Send the nomination to my desk. It’s time for action.”
Biden was not the only administration official to conflate recent mass murders with Dettelbach’s nomination.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday that “as we saw with the tragic shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo – where ATF agents have played a key role in the investigations – and with daily gun violence plaguing too many of our communities, now is the time to provide ATF the leadership it needs to redouble its work to enforce our gun laws and make our communities safer.”
Apparently, the pressure is paying off for the White House. Several Democrats who opposed Biden’s first choice for the vacant ATF directorship, David Chipman, said they may likely support Dettelbach.
Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, told CNN Dettelbach’s attitude was better than Chipman’s, adding “This guys is the right guy.”
Sen. Angus King said he will support Steve Dettelbach’s nomination to be ATF director.
King was the senator that sunk the last nominee, David Chipman. https://t.co/WnHkuNsw1i
— Congress Minutes (@politicongress) May 26, 2022
Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) each said they had productive private meetings with Dettelbach, but were waiting until the hearings conclude before they announce their decisions. Both senators come from gun-friendly states and both publicly opposed Chipman’s nomination.
The White House will need the support of every Democratic senator, including moderates like Manchin and Tester, to confirm Dettelbach’s nomination.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.