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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach answered questions from members of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

While mostly focused on budget and appropriations matters, committee members asked the director a range of questions, including about the Final Rule defining stabilizing arm braces attached to pistols as short-barreled rifles (SBRs), the agency’s new “zero tolerance” policy, what constitutes “willful violations” by federal firearms licensees (FFL), suppressors, ATF form processing and tracing request backlogs, illegal firearm trafficking and more.

During the hearing, Director Dettelbach mentioned ATF’s partnerships with NSSF on Real Solutions. Safer Communities. initiatives that data shows have helped to make communities across the country safer.

Lost and Found

U.S. Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) questioned Director Dettelbach about the 2022 ATF Firearm Disposal Practices inspector general (IG) report. The report’s findings revealed thousands of guns, firearm parts and ammunition were stolen from ATF’s Martinsburg, W.V., facility. The report added that increased security recommendations had not yet been implemented.

Congressman Cline was interested in the Biden administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy when it came to firearm retailer inspections and the standards by which they are being held accountable. The question included a reference to firearms that were reported missing from the ATF’s Martinsburg, W.V., facility.

“With respect to what happened at Martinsburg… there was criminal activity that we were victimized by at ATF,” Director Dettelbach responded. “In regards to the question about people in the industry, gun dealers, we work together with the NSSF in partnership to make sure we’re doing our best to support and educate firearms dealers on having secure storage, the things that they can do.”

That effort is NSSF’s Operation Secure Store, which assists firearm retailers on how better to secure inventory and reduce break-ins and criminal firearm thefts. Those efforts – according to ATF data – are effective.

Director Dettelbach assured Congressman Cline that firearm thefts are not willful violations and not grounds for a license revocation in an inspection. NSSF shares the concerns of ensuring firearms stay out of the hands of those that cannot be trusted with them, which is why NSSF’s Real Solutions. Safer Communities. efforts were launched.

Two of those programs are partnerships with ATF. ATF Director Dettelbach was recently in St. Louis, Mo., joined by NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartozzi, where he praised NSSF’s Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaign.

Please Define

Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Texas) asked Director Dettelbach if he could define an “assault weapon.” Director Dettelbach explained that defining classes of firearms is the duty and responsibility of Congress. ATF’s role is to enforce the law and advise Congress on technical aspects of firearms.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “Assault Weapons Ban,” S. 25, definition would ban an entire class of semiautomatic firearms based primarily on cosmetic features that have no bearing on the function of the firearm. Modern sporting rifles (MSRs) would be banned for telescoping stocks, pistol grips, barrel shrouds, threaded barrels and flash hiders. These are all features that actually make firing the rifle safer and more accurate, reducing the potential for errant shots. Sen. Feinstein’s bill would actually ban several popular duck-hunting shotguns, based on the proposed definitions and exclusions.

The questions turned to a topic that President Biden continues to push even though data shows the American people disagreeing with him – a ban on MSRs. More than 24.4 million MSRs are in circulation since 1990 and polling shows Americans increasingly disapprove of gun control pushes to ban them.

Pistol Brace Whiplash

Director Dettelbach spoke to the ATF’s Final Rule One which reclassified pistols with attached stabilizing arm braces as SBRs and subjects owners to registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Director Dettelbach testified that he attended NSSF’s SHOT Show to speak to attendees of how the ATF would educate the public about the new rule.

SB Tactical pistol stabilizing brace
Travis Pike for TTAG

That rule is being challenged in court. Critics have pointed out that President Joe Biden’s administration overstepped the Executive Branch’s authority to write criminal law when they redefined pistols with attached braces as short-barrel rifles. Congress alone has the authority to draft criminal law. NSSF is supportive of a Congressional Review Act that would nullify the rule.

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  1. Didn’t Scalia once say how surprised he was that the House didn’t use the power of the purse more often to rein in federal agencies?

    • especially the ATF…which always has trouble getting funding…often for good reason…as they sometimes go to ridiculous lengths to justify their existence….

  2. It would have been sweet if the ATF theft had happened in a “safe storage” state, and Dettelbach and the facility manager were given the max sentence times the number of guns stolen.

  3. I’m seeing more results with fewer Republicans in the House of Representatives. Interesting.

  4. We’ve seen this movie all too often. Republicrats gain control of the House, investigate like crazy, produce virtually nothing, and are usually only active when the Senate is in the hands of the Dims. There are only 19mos until the 2024 elections, and the House reverts to the Dims.

    Rather than endless hearings and interviews, the Republicrats need to make criminal referrals to DOJ (jam them up with a deluge of criminal complaints). While DOJ will ignore the Repubs, the failure of DOJ to take action might be useful as a campaign theme.


  5. While the Indian Giver Doodlebug zeros in on braces one of his storage facilities was being robbed and who knows where all those ATF firearms and muntions went? When questioned his ho-hum level reply about the theft was pathetic.

    It’s not about the criminal misuse of bricks, bats, knives, firearms, vehicles, etc. It’s all about advancing Gun Control’s Control of the law abiding citizens.

  6. When the smoke clears after their little show nothing will be any different and I’m feeling like the brace rule is going to go forward. Too much love for the status quo with these cretins.

  7. Seems simple enough, Congress can repeal the NFA AND set the definition of an “ASSAULT RIFLE” as a select fire rifle capable of semi-auto, three round burst and full auto operation… That’s it, one sentence guideline for Braindead, DOJ and ATF to follow no ambiguity, no questions, absolute and final…

    • “That’s it, one sentence guideline…no ambiguity.”

      Solving problems is not advantageous for government agencies. Having no problems to solve is a problem.

        • Ah, Echo, there is NO problem to begin with. The real problem is people not guns of any kind.

    • Semi-automatics – do not release 3 bullets at a time. It only fires 1 bullet at a time. And, the bullet doesn’t leave the gun by itself. It can only fire a bullet upon the PULL of the trigger.

  8. Absolutely nothing will happen… things will still continue on the status quo and probably get even worse… the Republicans are completely toothless when they get in charge…. Just look at the border situation…. Just look at the crime situation…. Just look at the inflation situation…. The Republicans are on a rocket ship back to the minority party in two years…. As a matter of fact, they’re wondering why they’re not permanently out of power for their lack of action each time they become the majority….We keep electing the same illuminati clowns every time they run…

    If every gun owner doesn’t become a minuteman soon, you will lose everything..

  9. More teens are becoming alcoholics and smoking cigarettes. BATFE? Nope the agency is just about banning gunms.

    • “I’m not a firearms expert”….what a ludicrous comment for an ATF official to make!…..

  10. It’s actually quite simple. Although inept, incompetent, ignorant, and stupid, the ATF is effective at the one thing (p)Resident Loleightyonemillion cares about – he wants to f*** over law-abiding gun owners, and will do it any way he can. Good going, Dettelbach, you incompetent t***, you are doing your master’s bidding.

    • “Good going, Dettelbach,…”

      When a spokesperson gets specific, options get limited. Leaving things vague, cloudy, tenuous, keeps options open. It’s the way of the world.

      • Sam,

        Plus, if he said anything specific, he could have been asked specific questions about his proposal, which would have put his abject ignorance on full public display. “20 year gun owner” my happy ass.

  11. “Director Dettelbach explained that defining classes of firearms is the duty and responsibility of Congress.”

    Yeah? Who redefined receivers/frames, machine guns, bump stocks, forced reset triggers, braced pistols/short-barreled rifles, etc etc?

    • jim,


      And all based on BATFE’s ALLEGED “expertise” about firearms. They are a bunch of green-eyeshade bureaucrats with a God complex. I’d pay money for a ticket to see the entire ATF bureaucracy try to shoot a minimum qualifying score for the LAPD (which is an ABSURDLY low standard). I’d bet the contents of my 401K I could outshoot this lying D-bag.

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