On Wednesday, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz questioned the director of the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms about two watchdog investigations that said the organization had neglected to act on recommendations following a theft of firearms and improper record keeping.
Republicans grilled ATF Director Steven Dettelbach in front of the House Judiciary Committee regarding actions they allege have hampered the agency and infringed on gun owners’ rights.
Things became quite heated when Rep. Gaetz used his allotted time to question Dettelbach about why independent reports from the U.S. Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office went unheeded.
“There were recommendation made on what you do so that you don’t become the victim of the theft, and the Inspector General is saying you’re not following them. I’m quoting directly from the report: ‘Thousands of firearms, firearms parts and ammunition had been stolen from the ATF.’ So you gave testimony that the brave ATF agents are the ones showing up at two in the morning after a burglary but it seems as though, in this case, you were the one burglarized! Why have you not followed the Inspector General’s recommendations so that you are not the mark?” asked Gaetz.
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The director responded that the ATF employee responsible for the theft has been arrested, but he avoided answering a follow-up question on whether or not the Biden administration had illegally kept records on more than a billion gun purchases by Americans. The ATF has confirmed in the past that they keep tabs on firearms sales, but they insist that their database is not open to the public for perusal.
Rep. Gaetz was undeterred in his criticism of Dettelbach’s regulatory efforts, which he argues have made it more difficult for gun dealers to remain in business.
“New data shows ATF gun store restrictions at the highest rate in 16 years. Mr. Director, the definition of hypocrisy is when you can’t live up to your own standard. So you have imposed a zero tolerance policy that is resulting in the highest rate of revocations in 16 years and you wouldn’t be able to meet your own zero tolerance policy because you lose stuff you’re supposed to keep and then you keep stuff that it’s illegal to keep. And by the way, I am one of those MAGA Republicans that would defund your salary, your agency, and I think that all these good things that you say exist could happen with those folks at the local and state level, and this is a terrible abuse of power,” finished Gaetz.
USA Today reports that Dettlebach was at the Congressional hearing to defend stabilizing brace rule:
The head of the nation’s gun regulation agency defended policies to crack down on gun dealers and a new prohibition on stabilizing brace devices Wednesday at a Capitol hearing.
GOP members at the House Judiciary hearing hammered Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on what they called inconsistent previous guidance on the braces that are due to become illegal to possess without a license June 1.
“You told them one thing 10 years ago and now you’re telling them something else,” Republican Chairman Jim Jordan said, decrying that owners of the pistol brace devices will become felons overnight.
Dettelbach defended the new rules, signed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, and cautioned that unwitting violators likely wouldn’t face prosecution and the 10-year prison penalty given prosecutor priorities.