Biden ATF nominee says he called for assault weapons ban without defining what that means

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dettelbach faced a grilling by Sen. Tom Algodón, R-Ark., who called him out for how he supported an assault weapons ban during his campaign, despite not knowing what that would mean.

When I was a candidate for office, I did talk about restrictions on assault weapons. I did not define the term. And I haven’t gone through the process of defining that term,” Dettelbach acknowledged.

President Biden's pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de fuego y explosivos, Steven Dettelbach, testified Wednesday, Mayo 25, 2022, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

President Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de fuego y explosivos, Steven Dettelbach, testified Wednesday, Mayo 25, 2022, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Pool Video)

So you’re running for public office, and you called for a ban on assault weapons, but you don’t have a definition for assault weapons?” Cotton asked.

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Dettelbach explained that deciding which weapons fall under the category ofassault weapons is the job of lawmakers. He recognized itwould be a difficult taskto define what assault weapons are, because making it too limited in scope would notoffer the protections that are intended,” while making it too broadinfringes unnecessarily on the rights of citizens.”

Steve Dettelbach, nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de fuego y explosivos (ATF), speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, CORRIENTE CONTINUA., abril 11, 2022.

Steve Dettelbach, nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de fuego y explosivos (ATF), speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, CORRIENTE CONTINUA., abril 11, 2022. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Cotton argued thatassault weaponsis a made-up term used bypoliticians and lawyers in Washington.He noted that guns have classifications such as pistol, rifle and shotgun and that each have defined characteristics, but assault weapons do not.

Su. Tom Algodón, R-Ark., questions President Biden's pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de fuego y explosivos, Steven Dettelbach, miércoles, Mayo 25, 2022, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Su. Tom Algodón, R-Ark., questions President Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de fuego y explosivos, Steven Dettelbach, miércoles, Mayo 25, 2022, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Pool Video)

I think it’s very telling that you’re nominated to lead the ATF and you don’t have a definition of assault weapon. And point is that there is really no such thing as a category of weapons known as assault weapons,” the senator said.

Cotton recalled that Congress did define assault weapons with a 1994 ban, but Dettelbach admitted that he isnot particularly familiar with” eso.

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