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Biden to nominate new ATF director

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Joe Biden is nominating an Obama-era US attorney to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), as his administration unveils its formal rule to rein in ghost guns, privately made firearms without serial numbers that are increasingly cropping up at crime scenes.

The White House confirmed that Biden is announcing the nomination of Steve Dettlebach, who served as a US attorney in Ohio from 2009 to 2016, in an afternoon event yesterday.

The administration is also releasing the finalised version of its ghost gun rule, which comes as the White House and the Justice Department have been under growing pressure to crack down on gun deaths and violent crime in the US.

Dettlebach’s confirmation is likely to be an uphill battle for the Biden administration. Biden had to withdraw the nomination of his first ATF nominee, gun-control advocate David Chipman, after the nomination stalled for months because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate.

Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to get nominees for the ATF position through the politically fraught process since the director’s position was made confirmable in 2006.

President Joe Biden in Washington. PHOTO: AP

Since then, only one nominee, former US Attorney B Todd Jones, has been confirmed. Jones made it through the Senate in 2013 but only after a six-month struggle. Jones was acting director when former US president Barack Obama nominated him in January 2013.

The Biden administration’s plan was first reported by Politico.

For nearly a year, the ghost gun rule has been making its way through the federal regulation process. Gun safety groups and Democrats in Congress have been pushing for the Justice Department to finish the rule for months. It will probably be met with heavy resistance from gun groups and draw litigation in the coming weeks.

Gun Owners of America (GOA) vowed that it would immediately fight the rule.

“Just as we opposed the Trump Administration’s arbitrary ban on bump stocks, GOA will also sue Biden’s ATF to halt the implementation of this rule,” the group’s Director of Federal Affairs Aidan Johnston said in a statement. The group believes the rule violates the US Constitution and several federal laws.

But gun safety advocacy groups, like Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushed the federal government for years to take action on ghost guns, applauded Biden’s moves and insisted that both Dettlebach’s appointment and the finalised rule will help combat gun violence.

“Ghost guns look like a gun, they shoot like a gun, and they kill like a gun, but up until now they haven’t been regulated like a gun,” said Everytown’s President John Feinblatt.