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ATF Nominee Dettelbach Makes Case for Leading the Agency

Steve Dettelbach testifies before a Senate committee. Photo: U.S. Senate

By Steve Neavling

President Biden’s pick to lead the ATF, Steve Dettelbach, pledged to leave politics out of the job during a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, just two days after a mass shooting at an elementary school shooting in Texas. 

“Politics can play no role in law enforcement. None at all,” he said, according to CNN.

“I worked under Republican administrations, and I worked under Democratic administrations as a federal prosecutor and I have lived that credo and I vow to continue to do it because people need to have confidence that people in law enforcement’s only agenda is to enforce the law – and if you’re at the ATF to catch the bad guys and protect the public,” he added.

In his opening remarks, Dettelbach addressed the rise in violent crime. 

“We face many threats to public safety, both new and old,” Dettelbach said in opening remarks. “Violent crime is increasing, firearms violence and mass shootings are increasing, hate crimes and religious violence are increasing, as is violent extremism. If confirmed, I promise to do everything I can to enforce the law, to respect the Constitution of the United States and to partner with law enforcement to protect the safety and the rights of innocent and law-abiding Americans.”

Dettelbach called the school shooting “unimaginable.”

The ATF has been without a permanent leader since ATF Director B. Todd Jones led the agency from 2011 to 2015. 

After the hearing, the White House said in a statement that it’s critical that the Senate approve Dettelbach to head the ATF. 

“After being vacant for seven years, it’s never been more important to have a tough, experienced, leader like Steve Dettelbach at the helm of ATF to support the agents risking their lives on the front lines every day to protectthe American people. And 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.”

Dettelbach was confirmed by the Senate to serve as attorney for the U.S. District Court in Northern Ohio, a position he held from 2009 to 2016. He launched an unsuccessful campaign to serve as attorney general in Ohio in 2018. Since then, he has worked in the private sector for BakerHostetler. 


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