Biden nominates former federal prosecutor to lead ATF

President Biden has tapped Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, to lead the ATF. Dettelbach is pictured in 2018, when he unsuccessfully ran for Ohio attorney general. John Minchillo/AP

President Joe Biden has picked former federal attorney Steve Dettelbach to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as the administration takes new steps to address the scourge of gun violence in America.

The nomination comes as the Justice Department pursues regulations targeting so-called ghost guns, weapons that can often be assembled from parts and that lack traceable serial numbers.

The White House touted Dettelbach’s two-decade career as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice, as well as his record of taking on criminal gang activity, domestic extremism and his experience with data-driven strategies to fight community gun violence. Dettelbach served as U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio during the Obama administration before resigning in 2016.

As part of his unsuccessful run for Ohio attorney general in 2018, Dettelbach pushed to reinstate an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.

Senior administration officials pitched the Cleveland-based attorney as a “non-controversial” nominee with a strong law enforcement background. But polarized politics around guns have previously made the post impossible post to fill.

Unlike Republicans in the evenly divided Senate, Democrats lack unity on gun policy. The ATF, which plays a key role in gun regulations, hasn’t had a permanent director since 2015, and there has been only one since the agency became a Senate-confirmed position in 2006.

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