White House Can’t Find An ATF Director; Acting Head Demoted


Fifteen months after Barack Obama took office, the White House has yet to nominate a director to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Newsweek reports. Acting director Kenneth Melson had to be demoted to deputy director because of a law that limits how long acting chiefs can run federal agencies. This has left ATF without a Senate-confirmed leader at a time of increased cross-border gun violence and mounting concerns about militia activity. “It’s shocking and indefensible,” says Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control group, “that when you have a huge problem from gun trafficking and gun violence, they have left this agency leaderless.”

Said ex-ATF official Jim Cavanaugh: “The message that’s sent to the employees is, ‘You don’t matter.'” Advocates like Rand say the failure to nominate a director reflects the administration’s larger fear of tackling any firearms issue–like reinstating the assault-weapons ban–that might rile the gun lobby. Administration officials say they have had a tough time even finding a candidate interested in the ATF job because of likely gun-lobby resistance. The last person President George W. Bush nominated for the job, Michael Sullivan never got a vote after then-senator Larry Craig of Idaho–upset about the ATF’s treatment of a firearms dealer in his state–put a hold on the nomination. ” National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam says, “If they want to delegate the authority to make that nomination, we’d be happy to do it.”

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