Biden ATF Nominee Supports Ban on Type of Gun He Can't Actually Define


Back when he was running for attorney general of Ohio, the man President Joe Biden wants to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wanted to ban “assault weapons.” If only he knew what those were.

During a contentious Senate hearing on Wednesday, Steve Dettelbach acknowledged to GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas that he didn’t have a working definition of what an “assault weapon” was despite his call to ban them in his 2018 campaign.

(This should hardly be a surprise. Here at The Western Journal, we’ve long pointed out how the term “assault rifle” was made up by Democrats to scare Americans into giving up their rights. As the left intensifies its focus on gun-grabbing in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, we’ll keep providing readers with the truth about the Second Amendment, self-defense and gun violence. You can help us by subscribing.)

During the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Dettelbach leaned on the fact that he’d only be enforcing congressional restrictions if he’s confirmed as head of the ATF.

“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 said.

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“That would only be for the Congress if it chose to take that up,” he continued. “If you chose to take it up, I would be at the ATF and — there was perhaps expertise or data we could give you so that you could make the appropriate decision to both protect the public and protect the Second Amendment.”

“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 responded.

It’s understandable — given the national tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, just a day before — that Dettelbach’s response to this question didn’t get more attention. However, he essentially admitted something I’ve never heard an elected Democrat say out loud: There’s no such thing as an “assault weapon”; it’s a categorization made up by gun-grabbing lawmakers.

Is there such a thing as an 'assault weapon'?

“It would only be for a legislative body — whether it was the Ohio Legislature or the Congress — it would only be for a legislative body to do that work,” Dettelbach said.

“I acknowledge that would be a difficult task to define assault weapons because, on one hand, you don’t want it to be so narrow that it doesn’t offer the protections that are intended and, on the other hand, you certainly don’t want it to be so broad so that it infringes unnecessarily on the rights of citizens,” he continued.

“So I acknowledge that’s a difficult task, but it would be for this body to do, not for me.”

Cotton then asked why it was so hard to define “assault weapons.” Dettelbach repeated roughly the same spiel.

“Congress took an effort at that definition in 1994,” Cotton said, referring to the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act. “What do you think of that definition that Congress used?” Cotton asked.

“I don’t know enough about that,” Dettelbach said. “That’s a definition that I’m not particularly familiar with and I haven’t studied the data on that particular definition.”

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That bill banned specific weapons in addition to certain types of pistols, rifles and shotguns, usually when used in combination with at least two features. For instance, a semiautomatic rifle with a pistol grip and a folding or telescoping stock would be considered an “assault weapon” under the legislation.

After a bit of hemming and hawing on Dettelbach’s part, Cotton finally chimed in with his own definition.

“It’s what politicians and lawyers in Washington call it,” Cotton said.

“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,” he continued.

“There are rifles. There are shotguns. There are pistols. They have properties, they have features, but there is no such thing as a category of ‘assault weapons.'”

Yet, during his speech after the shooting in Uvalde — as 21 innocent bodies were still warm — President Joe Biden mentioned “assault weapons” four times, pointing to the 1994 ban and claiming mass shootings went down after it was passed.

The term also featured in the most ill-informed portion of Biden’s speech, in which he sarcastically remarked that so-called assault weapons are so powerful that hunters must think their game is wearing body armor.

“What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?” Biden asked. “Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God’s sake. It’s just sick.”

Except there’s no particularly good definition of what an “assault weapon” is — and if there were, the man he picked to head the ATF would have been able to provide it.

An “assault weapon” is whatever a Democrat wants to confiscate or ban under the misapprehension that seizing it will reduce crime or mass shootings. It’s an undefined category, a moving goalpost designed to evoke an emotional reaction.

Joe Biden isn’t going to say that, of course, but he doesn’t need to. Steve Dettelbach just did.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture