WASHINGTON — As gun violence continues to rise across the country, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a new leader trying to reverse that trend.
Steve Dettelbach became director of the ATF in July. He was the first person to be confirmed by the Senate to head the agency in seven years.
“Everything we do at ATF begins and ends with public safety,” Dettelbach said. “There’s not a one size fits all or one answer for that. It’s a series of things.”
Dettelbach has a lot on his plate. High on his list of priorities is stopping the gun violence that’s been devastating communities across the country.
He wants to combine old techniques with new adaptive technology to combat violence.
“Sticking with the things that have worked in the law enforcement world for fighting violent crime and trying to modernize and develop tools to meet an emerging threat,” Dettelbach said.
Since he started the job, the ATF has taken major steps to try and prevent crime. This includes placing new restrictions on untraceable ghost guns and stabilizer braces, an accessory they say can make hand guns more dangerous.
“We’re trying to focus on both punishing people who have these unlawful guns and interrupting the flow of these illegal guns, these illegal items into our communities,” Dettelbach said.
The moves have prompted pushback from Republican lawmakers.
“I think that ATF is largely contributing to restrictions against the rights of law abiding citizens. I don’t see what they’re doing that’s positive that’s making the country safer,” Congressman Bob Good said.
Good just introduced legislation to overturn the new ATF regulation on stabilizing braces.
“To have unelected bureaucrats make law through regulatory fiat is illegal and unconstitutional and we’re going to fight it,” Good added.
But Dettelbach insists he isn’t making up laws. He said he’s helping close loopholes exploited by criminals.
“What we at ATF are doing is taking the laws that Congress has passed and making sure that people aren’t able to misuse technology to get around it,” Dettelbach said.
He told me he’s not interested in arguing over gun control politics.
“It’s not ATF’s job to play politics on any side,” Dettelbach said.
Instead, he said he’s aiming to keep the focus on saving lives.
“ATF is in the business of stopping crime and protecting public safety. That’s what we’ve always done and what we’re going to continue to do,” Dettelbach said.