WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday narrowly confirmed Steven M. Dettelbach to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, giving the company chargeable for marshaling the federal response to gun violence its first everlasting chief in seven years.
Mr. Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor from Ohio, was confirmed by a 48-to-46 vote. He was backed by each Democrat who voted in addition to two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio.
The affirmation of Mr. Dettelbach, 57, who was President Biden’s second alternative for the job, represented a victory for the White House, which has tried to patch collectively a response to a surge in gun-related crime and mass shootings with out using common background checks and an assault weapons ban, its most well-liked coverage instruments.
Mr. Dettelbach was anticipated to be sworn in quickly after the vote so he may start to sort out the daunting activity of energizing a bureau grappling with an amazing workload, implacable opposition from the U.S. gun foyer, technological constraints, sagging morale and persistent funding shortfalls which have left discipline places of work brief on employees wanted to examine crimes and examine gun sellers.
“He’s facing a very tall task,” stated Senator Angus King, a political impartial from Maine who caucuses with Democrats and final 12 months sunk the nomination of Mr. Biden’s first alternative to run the company, David Chipman, over considerations about his fiery temperament.
“Dettelbach’s first job, and he’s accomplished it just by being confirmed, is to improve morale at A.T.F. after nearly eight years without someone at the helm,” Mr. King added after casting his vote for Mr. Dettelbach. “The second job is finding the right people, at the top, to execute what he wants to accomplish. It’s a rebuilding exercise.”
John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gaggle funded by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, referred to as the Senate vote “a watershed victory for the gun safety movement and further proof that the Senate logjam around this life-or-death issue is finally breaking.”
Opposition to Mr. Dettelbach’s affirmation, initially fierce, slackened after the current mass shootings in Buffalo; Uvalde, Texas; and Highland Park, Ill., prompted requires motion in Washington. Democratic leaders have been pressured to resort to a procedural transfer to overcome a impasse within the Judiciary Committee final month, however whereas most Republicans opposed the decide, they did so with out a lot vehemence.
“There were questions about his record, but I agree that the A.T.F. definitely needs a permanent leader,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, stated after voting in opposition to the nomination on Tuesday.
Mr. Dettelbach, a graduate of Harvard Law School, labored in a sequence of prosecutorial posts in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Ohio earlier than changing into the U.S. legal professional for the Northern District of Ohio, which incorporates Cleveland. He held that publish underneath President Barack Obama and served from 2009 to 2016.
Since the spring, he has quietly labored the telephones to guarantee the company’s rank and file that he appreciated their arduous work throughout his under-the-radar nomination course of, which has earned him the quiet backing of profession officers who had been hostile to Mr. Chipman.
Mr. Dettelbach ran unsuccessfully for Ohio legal professional normal in 2018 as a Democrat, however he took nice pains to painting himself publicly as a profession prosecutor who believes that politics play “no role in law enforcement,” as he put it at his affirmation listening to. That stance was supposed to draw a distinction with Mr. Chipman, whose blistering criticism of Republicans and gun rights organizations had provoked a backlash that in the end pressured the administration to pull his nomination.
The bureau that Mr. Dettelbach inherits has lengthy been hamstrung by a sequence of legal guidelines, handed on the behest of the National Rifle Association and different teams that favor gun rights, which have restricted the company’s skill to conduct digital gun traces or share fundamental firearms knowledge with the general public.
But the company performs an outsize position in putting in almost all of the gun management steps taken by Mr. Biden by way of government authority — together with a crackdown on the sale of selfmade “ghost guns” and the administration’s promise to extra intently scrutinize federally licensed gun sellers, which are sometimes the supply of weapons utilized in crimes.
In addition, the company can be anticipated to be a central participant in establishing the brand new gun legislation, notably provisions embedded within the invoice that make it simpler for prosecutors to carry federal weapons trafficking costs.
“It’s extremely timely and important for him to be getting into the job right now,” stated Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who labored on the trafficking provisions. “I want them to bring trafficking cases every day.”
Mr. Dettelbach’s path to his new job was elliptical. Justice Department officers, stung by Mr. Chipman’s downfall, have been skeptical about saying a brand new nominee to be the everlasting director of the company. Instead, they favored persevering with the tenure of the bureau’s interim director, Marvin Richardson, a profession company official.
But after The New York Times reported that Mr. Richardson had attended a gun industry-sponsored event in Las Vegas, White House officers, underneath stress from gun management teams, started a seek for much less polarizing potential candidates.
They settled on Mr. Dettelbach, who was nicely preferred contained in the Justice Department and was in search of a brand new job after making an attempt with out success to be reappointed to his outdated place as U.S. legal professional in northern Ohio.
Some gun management activists initially questioned whether or not Mr. Dettelbach, recognized for his agreeable, low-key persona, could be robust sufficient to overhaul the bureau. But on Tuesday, their response was celebratory, if a bit tempered by the challenges he faces.
“This is a historic day,” stated Josh Scharff, senior counsel with the authorized arm of Brady, a gun security group that pressed the White House to decide a everlasting director.
Mr. Scharff stated he hoped that Mr. Dettelbach would rapidly put in place adjustments needed to scale back gun trafficking and enhance the company’s oversight of the gun trade.
“He’ll be an excellent leader of A.T.F. and will quickly and effectively modernize A.T.F. to catalyze the agency’s public safety mission,” he added.