While President Biden is considered A full gamut of executive and legislative procedures In terms of gun control in the wake of two mass shootings, the federal agency tasked with enforcing existing gun laws remains without a permanent leader and has faltered due to restrictions on its executive authority.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives or ATF has long been a target of a campaign by the National Rifle Association and its legislative allies to weaken oversight of arms purchases.
“It’s hard to think of any federal agency whose hands have been handcuffed just like the ATF by the NRA and its congressional friends,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor specializing in gun law at the University of California. Los Angeles.
Mr. Biden, That presented emotional appeal On Tuesday for Congress to enact weapons control legislation, it has not yet chosen a candidate to lead the agency.
White House officials said they have no timeline to do so, but two administration officials familiar with the situation said several potential candidates have been interviewed – though no names have yet been released on Capitol Hill or among advocacy groups, according to the officials. .
“The administration will activate the ATF and make sure that our gun laws are strictly enforced,” said Michael Gwen, a Biden spokesman.
However, the delay in naming a director is symbolic of the enormous practical and political challenges that come with efforts to make any significant changes to the agency.
Over the past two decades, Republicans, backed by Conservative Democrats, have fused into the spending bills. Designed to restrict the office, Including restrictions on unannounced inspections of arms dealers, a ban on documenting inventories of gun stores, and a particularly harmful provision preventing the agency from digitizing its records.
Gun rights groups say such steps are necessary to prevent the ATF from escalating Attacks“On the rights of gun owners. But critics see it as part of an effort to protect arms companies and their owners from oversight and liability.”
She said. Christian Heine of Brady: United Against Gun Violence, an arms control group that has proposed a plan for enforcement action on the issue: “What has been accomplished at ATF is methodical, deliberate, and it’s a big problem.” Centered around strengthening enforcement By the agency.
Mr. Biden is expected to present a series of files Executive orders related to armed violence In the coming weeks. Almost all commands require a major expansion of the ATF implementation. But even naming someone to lead the agency is a headache.
In 2006, lawmakers allied with the NRA enacted a clause making the position of director of the ATF, previously a political appointment, subject to Senate confirmation.
As a result, only one director has been confirmed over the past fifteen years: Obama’s candidate B. Todd Jones. Regina Lombardo, a respected veteran of the agency who helped direct the federal response to the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando in 2016, has held the position of Acting Director since early 2019.
I got the job after former President Donald J. Trump, who ran on a pro-gun platform, withdrew the nomination of a former senior union official, Chuck Canterbury, After the candidate was rejected Totally excludes expanding background checks and other warranties.
The potential power of the agency was another reason for Mr. Canterbury’s failure. One of Mr. Trump’s closest allies, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Objected, warning that Mr. Canterbury might use the office’s authority to enforce gun laws more stringently.