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Senate hearing for ATF nominee comes at critical time after Texas school shooting

WASHINGTON — The president’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will testify during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a day after a gunman 18-year-old massacred 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school. school in Uvalde, Texas.

The government agency that regulates firearms and enforces gun laws hasn’t had a permanent director since 2015, and confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominee Steve Dettelbach has become even more urgent for the White House after the Texas school mass shootings.

Dettelbach’s hearing comes at a critical time for the administration, which is under pressure to deal with a series of mass shootings, including at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 dead and three injured this this month.

Biden faced an uphill battle to get Congress to act on gun control legislation under the equally divided Senate. He nominated Dettelbach in April, several months after the White House was forced to remove a top nominee, David Chipman, because some Democratic senators joined Republicans in opposing his confirmation.

It is unclear whether Dettelbach has support in the Senate to be confirmed. The senses. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said they were considering his nomination. They were both skeptical of the nomination of Chipman, who faced Republican opposition due to his support for various gun control measures, including a ban on assault weapons. Dettelbach also voiced support for such a ban during his failed campaign for Ohio attorney general in 2018 and backed universal background checks — issues that raised concerns for Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck. Grassley, R-Iowa.

Biden announced his decision to appoint Dettelbach when he unveiled new restrictions on “ghost guns,” firearms people make at home that are unobtainable for law enforcement. The final rule requires manufacturers of DIY gun kits to include serial numbers on guns and sellers to follow the same standards as other firearms, including requiring background checks for the purchase.

As U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio during the Obama administration, Dettelbach supervised more than 170 Justice Department employees. Since leaving that role in 2016, he has been a partner at the law firm Baker Hostetler, working on white-collar crime litigation. Previously, he worked on an organized crime and corruption task force while serving as Assistant U.S. Attorney in Cleveland, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland and for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Committee Judiciary of the Senate as a delegate of the department. of Justice.

“Steve is extremely qualified,” Biden said. “He served the Department of Justice for two decades. He has worked side-by-side supporting the work of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including ATF agents. Steve has also partnered with community leaders and law enforcement to help prevent violent crime. He worked with the police to fight domestic extremism and to get violent criminals off the streets.

Dettelbach was recently approved to lead the ATF by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents more than 26,000 law enforcement professionals at dozens of agencies.

Gun violence prevention advocacy groups such as Brady are calling on the Senate to confirm Dettelbach immediately.

“Less than 24 hours after the second deadliest school shooting in modern American history, the need for comprehensive gun violence prevention solutions has never been clearer. by the Senate to lead the ATF is essential to any effort to prevent gun violence,” said Brady Chairman Kris Brown. “Steve Dettelbach is well qualified. He is a recognized leader and expert in law enforcement, and a prudent choice to manage and modernize the ATF so that it can enforce the laws of the land and ensure the safety of our communities.”

When Biden announced the finalized phantom gun rule in April, he also said his administration was working on other key areas of gun control, including prosecuting rogue gun dealers, disrupting the trafficking of illegal weapons and funding community policing programs. It was his second attempt to use executive action to try to curb gun violence after unveiling other initiatives a year earlier, several months after taking office. At the time, experts said Biden’s actions would have a positive but limited impact.

After the shooting in Texas on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., began a process that could lead to votes on two bills passed by the House to expand background checks for gun purchases, although 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster and push the legislation through to a final vote.

Frank Thorp V contributed.

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