Six former officials of the agency have joined the chorus calling for President Obama to name a new director for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The agency has not had a permanent director since 2006. Its current leader, Ken Melson, was downgraded in title to deputy director when his tenure exhausted the statutory limit for an acting director because Obama did not nominate him for permanent status. In a letter to the White House, the former ATF officials said, “It is critical that ATF have a leader who will marshal ATF's resources to aggressively combat America's gun violence epidemic.”
The signers of the letter were former directors Stephen Higgins and John Magaw and former senior agents Joseph Vince, William Vizzard, Gerald Nunziato and Julius Wachtel. They wrote, “Americans need an ATF director who will aggressively enforce the law, shut down corrupt gun dealers, and fight gun trafficking. Every day that passes with a
leaderless ATF, the consequences grow deadlier.” The ATF is the primary federal agency for enforcing gun laws, and many see politics at play in the delay. Writing recently on the Huffington Post, Dennis Henigan, vice president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “A headless ATF is but the latest symptom of a paralyzing disease — the Obama Administration’s fear of the gun lobby.” Main Justice reported last week that Andrew Traver, a 20-year ATF veteran in charge of the Chicago office, is a leading candidate for the directorship.