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ATF Director Fears Spate Of Mass Shootings Numbs Public To Violence

Steve Dettelbach, director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, fears that a drumbeat of mass shootings and other gun violence could make Americans numb to the bloodshed, fostering apathy to finding solutions rather than galvanizing communities to act. Dettelbach commented to The Associated Press after he met with family members of some of the 18 people killed in October at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine by a U.S. Army reservist who later took his own life. Dettelbach said people must not accept that gun violence is a prevalent part of American life.


“It seems to me that things that we used to sort of consider memorable, life-altering, shocking events that you might think about and talk about for months or years to come now are happening with seeming frequency that makes it so that we sort of think, “That’s just the one that happened this week,’” he said. “If we come to sort of accept that, that’s a huge hurdle in addressing the problem. Dettelbach, whose agency is responsible for enforcing gun laws, met for nearly two hours at Central Maine Community College with relatives of those killed and survivors of the Lewiston shooting. Some expressed frustration about missed red flags and questioned why the gunman was able to get the weapon he used. “I’m sorry that we have to be in a place where we have to have these horrible tragedies happen for people to pay attention, but they have to pay attention,” Dettelbach said. “I can go around and talk, but your voices are very important and powerful voices. So if you choose to use them, you should understand that it makes a difference. It really makes a difference.”


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