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House Appropriations Committee Raises a Range of Gun Regulation Issues With ATF Director Dettelbach

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach answered questions from members of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

While mostly focused on budget and appropriations matters, committee members asked the director a range of questions, including about the Final Rule defining stabilizing arm braces attached to pistols as short-barreled rifles (SBRs), the agency’s new “zero tolerance” policy, what constitutes “willful violations” by federal firearms licensees (FFL), suppressors, ATF form processing and tracing request backlogs, illegal firearm trafficking and more.

During the hearing, Director Dettelbach mentioned ATF’s partnerships with NSSF on Real Solutions. Safer Communities. initiatives that data shows have helped to make communities across the country safer.

Lost and Found

U.S. Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) questioned Director Dettelbach about the 2022 ATF Firearm Disposal Practices inspector general (IG) report. The report’s findings revealed thousands of guns, firearm parts and ammunition were stolen from ATF’s Martinsburg, W.V., facility. The report added that increased security recommendations had not yet been implemented.

Congressman Cline was interested in the Biden administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy when it came to firearm retailer inspections and the standards by which they are being held accountable. The question included a reference to firearms that were reported missing from the ATF’s Martinsburg, W.V., facility.

“With respect to what happened at Martinsburg… there was criminal activity that we were victimized by at ATF,” Director Dettelbach responded. “In regards to the question about people in the industry, gun dealers, we work together with the NSSF in partnership to make sure we’re doing our best to support and educate firearms dealers on having secure storage, the things that they can do.”

That effort is NSSF’s Operation Secure Store, which assists firearm retailers on how better to secure inventory and reduce break-ins and criminal firearm thefts. Those efforts – according to ATF data – are effective.

Director Dettelbach assured Congressman Cline that firearm thefts are not willful violations and not grounds for a license revocation in an inspection. NSSF shares the concerns of ensuring firearms stay out of the hands of those that cannot be trusted with them, which is why NSSF’s Real Solutions. Safer Communities. efforts were launched.

Two of those programs are partnerships with ATF. ATF Director Dettelbach was recently in St. Louis, Mo., joined by NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartozzi, where he praised NSSF’s Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaign.

Please Define

Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Texas) asked Director Dettelbach if he could define an “assault weapon.” Director Dettelbach explained that defining classes of firearms is the duty and responsibility of Congress. ATF’s role is to enforce the law and advise Congress on technical aspects of firearms.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s “Assault Weapons Ban,” S. 25, definition would ban an entire class of semiautomatic firearms based primarily on cosmetic features that have no bearing on the function of the firearm. Modern sporting rifles (MSRs) would be banned for telescoping stocks, pistol grips, barrel shrouds, threaded barrels and flash hiders. These are all features that actually make firing the rifle safer and more accurate, reducing the potential for errant shots. Sen. Feinstein’s bill would actually ban several popular duck-hunting shotguns, based on the proposed definitions and exclusions.

The questions turned to a topic that President Biden continues to push even though data shows the American people disagreeing with him – a ban on MSRs. More than 24.4 million MSRs are in circulation since 1990 and polling shows Americans increasingly disapprove of gun control pushes to ban them.

Pistol Brace Whiplash

Director Dettelbach spoke to the ATF’s Final Rule One which reclassified pistols with attached stabilizing arm braces as SBRs and subjects owners to registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Director Dettelbach testified that he attended NSSF’s SHOT Show to speak to attendees of how the ATF would educate the public about the new rule.

That rule is being challenged in court. Critics have pointed out that President Joe Biden’s administration overstepped the Executive Branch’s authority to write criminal law when they redefined pistols with attached braces as short-barrel rifles. Congress alone has the authority to draft criminal law. NSSF is supportive of a Congressional Review Act that would nullify the rule.

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