Steven Dettelbach, President Biden’s nominee to be the nation’s top gun regulator, faced a somber Senate confirmation hearing a mass shooter killed at least 19 children at a Texas elementary school. Dettelbach, who has not yet have the necessary votes to become the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, veered away from his own views on gun safety laws during the hearing, Politico reports. Republicans, who have criticized him for previously advocating for an “assault-style” firearms ban, got a pledge from him to enforce the nation’s gun laws and combat gun violence. “Violent crime is increasing. Firearms violence and mass shootings are increasing. Hate crimes and religious violence are increasing, as is violent extremism,” Dettelbach said. “If confirmed, I promise to do everything I can to enforce the law, to respect the Constitution of the United States and to partner with law enforcement to protect the safety and the rights of innocent and law-abiding Americans.”
Democrats, frustrated by their inability to strike even a narrow deal with Republicans to increase gun regulation, have seen a Senate-confirmed ATF director as a step to better enforcing gun laws. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said mass shootings "It will happen again and again, until we collectively decide to find a path forward to responsibly address it. And we in the Senate need to have a better answer." Dettelbach served as a U.S. Attorney in Ohio under former President Obama. He vowed during the hearing to keep political matters out of consideration if confirmed to the post. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) pressed Dettelbach on his vow to enact an assault-style weapons ban during his unsuccessful bid for Ohio attorney general in 2018. He also faced questions from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) about a decline in prosecutions of firearms and explosives crimes over the course of his tenure as U.S. Attorney. Dettelbach enjoys significant support from law enforcement, inclluding a bipartisan group of eight former ATF directors, more than 140 bipartisan former Justice Department officials and the Major County Sheriffs of America.