ATF Director Dettelbach Revealing
Change of Course at Harvard

By Larry Keane. Nov 6, 2023
Article Source

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach pledged to Congress during his nomination hearing that he'd "use the tools Congress gives me," and committed to "being a fair regulator" of the firearm industry in his role.

That was welcomed after President Joe Biden's first nominee, gun control lobbyist David Chipman, was withdrawn after a disastrous nomination hearing of his own. However, recent comments by Director Dettelbach delivered at Harvard University, where he was a keynote guest, are worrisome. The top-ranking man transitioned from being a law and regulations enforcer to gun control advocate.

Director Dettelbach told an audience at Harvard's "Gun Violence in America," discussion that he agreed with gun control advocates on pursuing a ban on Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) and universal background checks. That's a break from previous Congressional testimony where he testified that he would apply the law, not advocate for new ones.


Congress writes laws. That's not a fact that Director Dettelbach disputes. He agreed to that in his U.S. Senate confirmation hearings. In fact, in previous testimony, he declined to define the politically-charged term of "assault rifle" that gun control advocates throw about. He even acknowledged that as a prior Ohio political candidate, he campaigned for such bans but explained that defining firearms is reserved for Congress.

"I did talk about restrictions on assault weapons," Director Dettelbach told Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). "I did not define the term, and I haven't gone through the process of defining that term," he said. "That would only be for the Congress if it chose to take that up to do."

Director Dettelbach didn't hesitate having that discussion in Cambridge, Mass. He took the unprecedented step of calling for the adoption of that very law – something no ATF director has done before.

"The president has also said, and I agree, that we should consider and reinstate a ban on certain types of assault weapons," Director Dettelbach said.

He hedged and added it's Congress that should define what that term means, but the director knows Congress has not banned the commonly-owned firearms. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004 and since, Congress hasn't attempted to send a bill banning the most popular-selling centerfire rifle to the president. That's true for when either party held majorities in the House and Senate, respectively, including when Democrats controlled the House, Senate and The White House.

Director Dettelbach's references to "assault weapon" are, of course, the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles, or Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs). President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for the firearms to be banned and Vice President Kamala Harris added her support for reinstating a ban. The calls for banning more than 24.4 million MSRs in circulation are happening against the backdrop of elevated levels of lawful firearm purchases. They're also at a time when more Americans oppose such a ban and millions of Americans, including millions of first-time gun buyers, purchasing AR-15-style rifles as their preferred firearm for self-defense, recreational target shooting and hunting. The MSR uses the same one-trigger-pull-one-round-fired technology common in firearms for over a century.

The director also called for implementing a universal background check system he knows is prohibited by law and wouldn't be workable without a nation-wide firearm registry. He and the administration have been clear, their plainly unlawful proposed rule defining "engaged in the business" would make hundreds of thousands of gun owners criminals if they don't become "licensed dealers." This is intended to be a giant step toward "universal background checks."

Director's Veterans Smear

Director Dettelbach's change of policy positioning to advocate for unconstitutional bans on entire classes of firearms over using the tools Congress gives him wasn't the only troubling remark. He misrepresented the tragedy in Lewiston, Maine, to attack a Senate amendment that would forbid Department of Veterans Affairs bureaucrats from unilaterally robbing veterans of their Second Amendment rights if they need assistance managing their finances. Sadly, he did this by conflating that with those deemed "mentally defective" by a court. The two are not the same.

"Let me talk a little bit about what happened before that (Lewiston tragedy), and what happened after that happened, to put a sort of context on this," Director Dettelbach attempted to explain. "So, before that, just a few hours before that actually, the United States Senate voted to pass a measure, which the goal of the measure was to lower barriers for veterans who had been found to be incompetent to maintain their rights to keep and possess firearms."

Moderator Caroline Light, who authored a book titled "Stand Your Ground: A History Of America's Love Affair With Lethal Self-Defense," nodded along in approval with the director's suggested connection between the tragic murders in Maine and the Senate vote.

The "Senate measure" was U.S. Sen. John Kennedy's (R-La.) amendment protecting military veterans' Second Amendment rights from Department of Veteran Affairs overreach, which Breitbart has reported. Companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), had already passed the U.S. House of Representatives in a vote that garnered near unanimous Republican support.

The policy did not have the "goal" of "lowering barriers for veterans who had been found to be incompetent" from keeping their Second Amendment rights. The legislation, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, prohibits the Veterans Affairs Department from quietly adding names of veterans who require financial supervision – this is known as a "fiduciary" – to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database as prohibited individuals. It's not only an ongoing underhanded move to satisfy gun control supporters but is a blatant breach of trust with the very individuals who swore oaths – up to and including their lives – to defend the U.S. Constitution that protects the rights of all Americans. These millions of veterans have not received any judicial proceedings or been adjudicated a "mental defective" and therefore deemed unfit to obtain or possess firearms. Their only "crime" in the Biden administration's eyes is they receive financial assistance with benefits.

NSSF's Mark Oliva, a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, criticized the current policy, saying, "It is unconscionable that the very agency that is charged with caring for the needs of these patriots continues to work against their interests and strip them of their Constitutional rights, simply because they need assistance managing their financial affairs."

U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), an MPA Harvard graduate and former U.S. Navy SEAL who was wounded in combat while on his third deployment serving in Afghanistan, caught wind of the director's remarks.

"The ATF Director is brazenly misrepresenting Senator Kennedy's amendment… to trample on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and veterans," Rep. Crenshaw posted on "Our veterans bravely served our country, defended our Constitution, and earned their VA benefits. Their fundamental rights should not be at the mercy of unelected, anti-gun government bureaucrats with an agenda."

Allowing this continued abuse of the FBI NICS system by government bureaucrats at the Department of Veterans Affairs is an affront to the service of veterans who fought to protect those rights for all Americans. Director Dettelbach's remark attempt to tie all veterans to the murderer in Lewiston, Maine. The comparison to continue to rob veterans of their rights is beyond the pale.

Proud Partnership

Director Dettelbach – who has joined NSSF at public events to highlight the firearm industry's efforts to keep communities safe – left out nearly any mention of the hard work the firearm industry does to keep Americans safe, including many long-standing partnerships with ATF. It would have been the right thing to do – especially given the audience – to highlight these partnerships. Sadly, it wasn't mentioned.

For almost 25 years, the ATF and NSSF have partnered to prevent illegal firearm straw purchases with a public awareness campaign called Don't Lie for the Other Guy™. NSSF also matches ATF reward offers when firearms are stolen from retailers to bring those criminals to justice and recover those firearms before they can be criminally misused. That's been ongoing for years and was recently made a pillar of the latest cooperative effort called Operation Secure Store®. That partnership between ATF and NSSF is focused on raising awareness within the firearm retailer community to voluntarily improve and enhance security at firearm retailers to prevent and deter thefts and robberies. These efforts are part of the firearm industry's Real Solutions. Safer Communities.® campaign. The ATF's own data demonstrates these partnerships have worked to improve safety in cities across the country and have reduced crime and lowered intentional firearm violence.

The ATF director's choices to ignore the firearm industry's role in keeping Americans safe and his unprecedented call for gun control and his smear of veterans, of which there are thousands employed within our industry, threatens to undermine a relationship that has promoted public safety, protected communities from criminals and preserved the lawful transfer of, and commerce in firearms.

Also: ATF Director Dettelbach Answers House Appropriations Committee Questions Over Agency Funding


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