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President Biden picks former Ohio U.S. attorney to lead ATF

Steve Dettelbach pointing Dem Bus Tour 1018 - CHOW.jpg
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Former federal prosecutor Steve Dettelbach, then the Democratic nominee for Ohio Attorney General, toured the state with other candidates on October 25, 2018, a little over a week before the general election. Dettelbach lost that race to Republican Dave Yost.

Steve Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor, is the second person nominated to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — an agency that hasn't had a Senate-confirmed leader since 2013.

Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Steve Dettelbach, is President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

If confirmed, Dettelbach will be working on the Biden administration’s plan to take on gun violence.

The former federal prosecutor and Cleveland lawyer talked about his support for background checks when he was the Democratic nominee for Ohio Attorney General in 2018.

“Somebody who is running a legitimate firearms license dealer has to run a background check to sell a weapon. You shouldn’t be able to buy that exact same weapon still in the shrink wrap without having a background check,” said Dettelbach.

Dettelbach, who was endorsed by gun control groups in that unsuccessful 2018 campaign, is Biden’s second pick – the first withdrew after opposition from gun rights groups.

If he’s confirmed, Dettelbach will try to move gun control proposals, including banning so-called “ghost guns” – untraceable weapons assembled from components without serial numbers bought online.

Dettelbach has been in private practice in Cleveland since 2016, specializing in white collar investigations and securities enforcement. He was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio for seven years, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. He was a federal prosecutor for almost 20 years before that, and never lost a federal criminal trial.

Dettelbach has strong backing from gun control groups, and has gained early support from law enforcement and prosecutors.

But two of the seven Ohio Republicans running for the U.S. Senate has announced their opposition. Former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken called Dettelbach an "anti-gun activist" and said she'd work to defeat him, as she did in 2018. Mike Gibbons, an investment banker, said the pick showed Biden's "contempt for our fundamental right to keep and bear arms."

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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