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ATF Director Says He’s ‘Not A Firearms Expert’

Graham Perdue
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An admission before a House subcommittee would be startling if it were not from a member of the Joe Biden administration. The director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) on Tuesday told the House Appropriations Subcommittee that he is “not a firearms expert.”

Steve Dettelbach also could not provide a definition of an “assault weapon” despite going on record supporting a ban.

It came in a telling exchange with a legislator over the ATF’s 2024 budget.

Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-TX) asked the director, “In 15 seconds, would you define an ‘assault weapon’ for me?”

Dettelbach replied that he did not need 15 seconds because he could not answer the question. “If Congress wishes to take that up, I think Congress would have to do the work, but we would be there to provide technical assistance.”

He then added, “I, unlike you, am not a firearms expert to the same extent as you may be.” The director went on to say that the ATF has staff who are more qualified to give an answer to technical questions about firearms.

Still, he has not hesitated to declare his support for an assault weapons ban. Dettelbach called for congressional action after the tragic shooting at a Nashville Christian elementary school early this month.


His response begs the question of what qualifications are necessary to lead an agency in the Biden administration. Is the surgeon general an expert on medical issues?

The online response to the head of the agency that regulates firearms not being well-versed on the subject was instant and brutal. Florida Board of Education member Ryan Petty asked “why is he leading the agency responsible for overseeing federal firearms law?”

Lawyer Kostas Moras expressed his appreciation for Dettelbach’s honesty but then called into question exactly where his qualifications lie. “Does he know a lot about alcohol or tobacco or something?”

Radio host Dana Loesch tweeted that “he’s not an expert but he’ll eagerly propose regulation to be followed like law anyway.” 

And Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) speculated that if the head of the agency regulating firearms is not a firearms expert, “maybe the ATF shouldn’t be regulating your firearms.”

ATF Director Dettelbach’s confession should come as no surprise to Second Amendment advocates. After all, the administration’s firearms policies are dictated by ideology, not facts, and emotion overrides logic in making decisions on gun control.