While President Biden is considering a range of executive and legislative arms control measures after two mass shootings, the federal agency tasked with enforcing existing gun laws remains without a permanent leader and is hampered by restrictions on its enforcement powers.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (A.T.F.) has long been the target of a campaign by the National Rifle Association and its legislative allies to weaken control over the purchase of weapons.
“It’s hard to imagine a federal agency as completely handcuffed as the A.T.F. was awarded by the N.R.A. and his friends in Congress, ”said Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law specializing in gun laws at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Mr Biden, who on Tuesday made an emotional appeal to Congress to pass gun control laws, has not yet selected a candidate to run the agency.
White House officials said they did not have a schedule for this, but two administrative officials with knowledge of the situation said several potential candidates were being interviewed – although officials have not yet released names on Capitol Hill or among interest groups.
“The administration will be A.T.F. and make sure our gun laws are vigorously enforced, ”said Michael Gwin, a Biden spokesman.
However, the delay in the appointment of a director is a symbol of the enormous practical and political challenges associated with efforts to make substantial changes in the agency.
For the past two decades, Republicans have embedded themselves in driver spending, with the support of Conservative Democrats intends to restrict the officeThese include restrictions on unannounced inspections of arms dealers, bans on documenting gun store inventory and a particularly harmful provision that prevents the agency from digitizing its records.
Gun rights groups say such steps are necessary to keep the A.T.F. from assembling a “AttackAbout the rights of gun owners. However, critics see it as part of an effort to protect gun companies and owners from scrutiny and responsibility.
“What happened to the A.T.F. is systemic, intended and a major problem,” said T. Christian Heyne of Brady: United Against Gun Violence, a gun control group that has proposed a plan for executive action on the issue at the center of enhanced enforcement from the agency.
Mr Biden is expected to introduce a number of implementing regulations related to gun violence in the coming weeks. Almost all orders require significant expansion from A.T.F. Enforcement. But naming someone to run the agency is a headache.
In 2006, the N.R.A. Confederate legislature made a provision that would change the position of A.T.F. Director, who had previously been a political appointment, subject to Senate confirmation.
As a result, only one director has been confirmed in the past 15 years: Obama nominee B. Todd Jones. Regina Lombardo, a respected veteran with the agency who led the federal response to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in 2016, has been acting director since early 2019.
She got the job after former President Donald J. Trump, who ran on a defiantly pro-gun platform, withdrew the nomination of a former top police union official, Chuck Canterbury. after the candidate refused Completely eliminate the exclusion of background checks and other protective measures.
The agency’s potential power was another reason Mr. Canterbury failed. One of Mr. Trump’s closest allies, Senator Josh Hawley from Missouriwarned him, warning that Mr. Canterbury could use the authority of the bureau to enforce gun laws more strictly.