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Giffords Calls on Senate to Confirm Dettelbach

Washington, DC — Today, Giffords called on the Senate to confirm President Biden’s nominee for the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Steven Dettelbach. One day after the national tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, where at least 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed in an elementary school, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from Dettelbach about how the federal government can address this unprecedented national surge in gun violence. 

Since 2006, ATF has had only one Senate-confirmed leader, in large part due to the gun lobby’s fierce opposition to any nominated candidate, including, most recently, former Giffords Senior Advisor David Chipman. The Senate must immediately confirm Steve Dettelbach as the next director of the ATF so that the agency is better able to address the serious issue of gun violence. 

Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords:

“Crime is rising across America and it is almost entirely fueled by gun violence. To address the rise in violent crime it’s more important than ever that ATF have a strong leader directing those efforts. As this country grapples with yet another mass tragedy caused by a man with a gun, all eyes are on the Senate today. Just 10 days apart, we’ve witnessed two deadly shootings unfold in places where no one should have to think twice about their safety. 

“Now, the Senate has a chance to install a strong leader in the only federal agency that oversees guns—and it can have that with Steven Dettelbach, a longtime federal prosecutor with a history of prosecuting hate crimes. His hearing today proved that he has both the experience and the leadership capabilities critical to being an excellent ATF director. The Senate must prove that it takes preventing gun violence and protecting public safety seriously by confirming Steve Dettlebach. For years the gun lobby has successfully stopped the confirmation of a Senate-confirmed director of the ATF. It is paramount that the Senate moves forward with a leader independent of the gun lobby.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the primary federal agency responsible for enforcing our national gun laws. It serves a crucial role by implementing the laws that Congress has enacted to address gun violence, investigating and stopping illegal gun trafficking, and combating gun homicides and shootings. Yet, the gun lobby’s unrelenting opposition to nominees for ATF director have left the agency weak and unable to effectively accomplish this mission. That’s why the Senate should act quickly to confirm a director for the agency. President Biden’s new nominee for the position, Steve Dettelbach, is an excellent choice for the position. 

Having served as a federal prosecutor for almost two decades, Dettelbach has a long history of close relationships with law enforcement agencies, with whom he has partnered to investigate and prosecute violent crimes, including arson cases that demonstrate how he is uniquely qualified for the position of ATF director. Dettelbach has been particularly involved in prosecuting cases involving attacks on religious groups motivated by hate: he led the successful prosecution of the bigoted arsonist who set fire to the First Azusa Apostolic Faith Church of God in Cleveland in 2011, and the anti-Muslim extremist who set fire to a mosque in Toledo in 2012. Dettelbach has also successfully prosecuted murderers, drug dealers, child predators, violent extremists, and 40 human traffickers, and his experience includes handling many large cases involving considerable public and media scrutiny. Dettelbach also has a long history as a senior policy advisor within the Department of Justice, having been appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, where he chaired the Civil Rights Subcommittee.


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