Steven Dettelbach sworn in as ATF director

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Steven Dettelbach was sworn in Tuesday as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, becoming only the second ATF director to win Senate approval since confirmation was required in 2006.

“Thank you, Attorney General Garland, and I also want to say thanks to President Biden for your confidence in me, for fighting for the American people every day and for fighting to provide ATF with a permanent director,” Dettelbach said at his investiture ceremony at the Justice Department.

A former U.S. attorney from Cleveland, Dettelbach was confirmed by the Senate on a 48-46 vote earlier this month, with two Republican senators joining the Democrats in support. Nominations for the agency have proved difficult to get through the Senate, leaving it without a permanent director for seven years.

Biden withdrew his first nomination to the post last September after the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked in a party-line vote — a testament to the highly politicized debate surrounding the agency and gun laws amid a wave of mass shootings.

In his introductory remarks on Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland noted that Dettelbach “understands that ATF’s mission has never been more urgent than it is today.”

Dettelbach echoed Garland’s sentiments in his remarks: “Make no mistake. This agency and its aims are challenged as never before. We all know about it … rising crime, rising firearm violence, rising mass shooting incidents, and a rising tide of extremist violence that threatens people and safety in this nation.”

The newly sworn-in ATF director also emphasized a desire for collaboration.

“We have to be open to new ideas,” he said. “We have to be open to new partnerships. We have to be open to a new and urgent sense of unity.”