The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has long been denied a permanent director, thanks to gun-rights advocates' hostility to the agency. Now, the agency has a new foe in progressives who see the low-key leadership of ATF's acting director, Marvin G. Richardson, as too accommodating of the gun industry, the New York Times reports. In recent weeks, anti-gun groups have stepped up pressure on the White House and Attorney General Merrick Garland as the administration continues a protracted search for a new nominee to lead the bureau, a search made necessary after Republicans blocked President Biden's appointment of David Chapman to head the bureau.
Chapman had vowed to overhaul the agency, which has been without a permanent leader since 2015. Richardson's leadership, by contrast, reflects the White House's waning focus on gun control since the Chapman defeat, say gun-control advocates. “A.T.F. needs a top-to-bottom overhaul,” said John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group funded by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. “That starts with the administration making sure the agency has the resources and leadership it needs to regulate an industry that has consistently prioritized profits over public safety.” One flash point with Richardson came in January, when he told a gathering of weapons manufacturers that the rule banning sales of "ghost gun" components would be delayed by months, infuriating some Biden allies. Administration officials say Richardson is making the best of a thankless job and has spent much of his time focused on deploying agents to deal with gun violence. His leadership “has been critical” to combating the recent national rise in shootings, said a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.