Biden to Nominate ATF Director, Announce Order on ‘Ghost Guns’

Biden to Nominate ATF Director, Announce Order on ‘Ghost Guns’
President Joe Biden speaks in the White House in Washington, on April 5, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Nick Ciolino

President Joe Biden is set to make another nomination for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and announce new executive actions restricting “ghost guns.”

The president is tapping former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to head the ATF. Biden’s previous nomination, David Chipman, was pulled back in September as Chipman found opposition from Senate Republicans and some Democrats.

Chipman’s history of gun control advocacy had him squaring off against gun rights groups.

Dettelbach was confirmed for his position as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in 2009. He also spent two decades as a prosecutor for the Department of Justice (DOJ), according to a White House “fact sheet.”

Dettelbach also ran an unsuccessful campaign for Ohio Attorney General during which he advocated for an assault weapons ban, according to the Ohio public radio station WOSU.

The top spot at the ATF has been mostly vacant since it became a Senate-confirmed position in 2006. The only person to serve as permanent ATF director since that time was Byron Todd Jones who filled the role from 2013 to 2015.

Biden is also set to announce Monday a final rule on ghost guns—unregistered firearms often built using a 3D printer.

Biden’s rule will require kits that can be used to build a gun to be registered as such. It also includes an effort to serialize ghost guns already in circulation. Additionally, Biden’s order will update serialization and background check laws for guns with split receivers and require firearms dealers to retain records for as long as their business is open.

The new rule on ghost guns is coming under criticism from Republicans and Second Amendment advocates.

“The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to prevent you from making your own firearm. This a fact that has been recognized for 200+ years. Also, Article 1, Section 1 (literally the first operative sentence in the Constitution) says Congress makes law, not POTUS!” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) posted on Twitter Sunday.

“If you commit a crime to the ghost gun, not only are state and local prosecutors going to come after you, but expect federal charges and federal prosecution as well,” Biden said at an event at the NYPD headquarters in February.

These are the latest actions from Biden meant to address a nationwide increase in violent crime in recent years. The rate of violent crime nationally reached a ten-year high in 2020, according to data from the FBI. This included a year-over-year jump in homicides from 6,977 in 2019 to 9,630 in 2020.

And several major cities reported dramatic increases in crime last year. Some estimate last year’s nationwide murder rate to be near a 25-year high. The murder rate was estimated to be 6.9 murders per 100,000 people in 2021.

Last year roughly 20,000 suspected ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations, according to the ATF.

Biden’s budget request also includes increased funding for law enforcement, steering $3.2 billion in grants meant for state and local governments to put more cops on the beat. It also requests $37.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Justice (DOJ), with a $1.7 billion increase for federal gun trafficking enforcement.

Biden is also making calls to Congress to pass legislation that will, “require background checks for all gun sales, ensure that no terrorist can buy a weapon in the United States, ban the sale and possession of unserialized firearms—ghost guns, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and repeal gun manufacturers’ protection from liability.”