Screenshot YouTube : Face the Nation

Earlier this month, the director of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Steven Dettelbach, sat with Margaret Brennan on CBS’ Face the Nation to discuss gun violence and gun laws in the United States. In addition to the interview, Director Dettelbach provided a hands-on demonstration with what he dubbed one of ATF’s “leading experts” to educate CBS viewers on threats such as the often dubbed “ghost guns.”

The segment was less about educating and more about advocacy, with Ms. Brennan acting as a willing participant to push the narrative that guns are the problem in America and that stricter gun laws and limits to the Second Amendment are the solutions this country needs. Instead of presenting data backed by legally sound arguments for any of the proposed changes to gun laws or the Second Amendment, Director Dettelbach and his “expert” proved that the federal government has no capacity to manage guns or gun violence.

In fact, it’s debatable if Director Dettelbach, let alone his firearms “expert,” has much experience with guns at all.

Do you even shoot, Bro?

In what was surely meant to be a powerful display of the sheer death and destruction that firearms can wreak, Director Dettelbach brought with him a selection of various guns to show a visibly uncomfortable and disgusted Ms. Brennan what the ATF works with. Director Dettelbach brought his Chief of Firearm’s Ammunition Technology Division, Chris Bort, to assist with this display.

Mr. Bort, whom Director Dettelbach introduced as a “leading expert” at one point, couldn’t disassemble a Glock slide, eventually giving up on camera. To be fair, Mr. Bort was clearly uncomfortable with the task assigned, given his stilted responses to Ms. Brennan’s inquiries, which often had to be handled by Director Dettelbach.

Unfortunately, each time Director Dettelbach stepped in to save his “expert” from having to answer any politically charged or even just in general basic firearm inquiries, his lack of overall subject matter knowledge was displayed. At one point, Director Dettelbach referred to a drum magazine as a “75-round clip”.

For the non-gun owners out there, a magazine feeds rounds into a firearm’s chamber, whereas a clip holds cartridges together. They are not interchangeable pieces and most certainly not the same thing.

This matters – because these definitions find their way into gun control laws written and enforced by the ignorant.

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Actual alarm bells

When discussing the difficulty the ATF has in tracking and identifying individuals who commit gun crimes, the ATF director implied that gun dealers should be tipping off the ATF or flat out refusing lawful sales of firearms based on certain “alarm bells,” as the director put it.

One of these scenarios provided by Director Dettelbach went as follows:

“…somebody comes into your store, in a border state and plunks down $12,000 cash money for one of these (.50 caliber rifles), so that there’s no credit card trail, I mean, my word, we hope that people will help us as Americans and continue to help us and not make that sale and protect our safety.”

Last I checked, cash was still a form of legal tender in this country. There could be any number of reasons why a citizen may opt to pay cash for any number of items. The fact that the government is uncomfortable with you paying cash is, in fact, the best reason to do it.

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The next example Director Dettelbach provided was the tone-deaf claim that “all sorts of alarm bells should be going off” if a couple comes into a gun store and the man asks all the questions, but then the woman purchases the firearm. As if the only plausible explanation is that the woman is being manipulated by a bad actor man who intends to use the weapon himself for nefarious reasons.

It could be that the woman, like in my case, when I went to purchase my firearm, wanted to avoid the probably irritating male chauvinism I might face and that since my husband is a trained firearms expert, he would also think to ask questions I might not.

I tell you what should make alarm bells go off: the fact that the head of the ATF doesn’t understand basic firearms nomenclature.

What are you even saying?

During the interview segment, Director Dettelbach manages to evade, albeit clumsily, Ms. Brennan’s blatant advocacy for a national gun owner registry. He does make sure to add that the ATF’s job is more challenging because of a lack of a central national gun registry, stating:

“The way it doesn’t happen is we punch in a person’s name, and up comes ‘oh, they own so many guns.’ Congress has prohibited us from doing that.”

Correction: the Constitution prohibits the ATF from doing that, because the federal government is not given any such authority in our founding law.

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Thank God for that; the level of naivety and ignorance on display is enough of an argument against giving these people more power over guns. When asked how they are working to “sharpen” their agency and work within these Congressional constraints, Director Dettelbach explained:

“…we use what’s called crime gun intelligence, which is a fancy term, but basically, it applies to being able to follow the gun, to take a crime gun, right. So a crime gun, which is something that’s involved with a crime, and squeeze every last bit of evidence and intel we can out of the thing that comes out of the gun, the bullet; the cartridge casing that’s ejected out the back of the gun; the outside of the gun, things like the serial number; and the inside of the gun, the markings inside of the gun.”

I’m glad he was able to clarify that a crime gun is a gun involved with a crime and that the “thing” that comes out of the gun is called a bullet. It sounds like what the ATF does is pretty standard; it’s called evidence gathering.

It is not a fancy term, but a tried and true one nonetheless. While I’m all for legal gun ownership and protecting the Second Amendment, it might not be a bad idea to make sure Director Dettelbach and Mr. Bort don’t touch any guns; I don’t feel like they could operate one safely.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts… More about Kathleen J. Anderson


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