Will Obama's Gun Package Include Bypassing Congress on ATF Director?
At noon tomorrow, President Obama is scheduled to unveil the slate of gun-control proposals recommended by Vice President Joe Biden, surrounded by "children from around the country who wrote the president letters in the wake of that tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety."
Those proposals are expected to run the gamut from executive actions that could be done without congressional approval to a legislative agenda that will urge a renewal of the long-dormant assault weapons ban, limits on the size of gun magazines, and more.
"Certainly, a significant part of what he hopes we together can achieve will have to be done working with Congress," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. "…The president will put forward a series of proposals that is not limited to one legislative action."
But the president plans could also include a bit of executive pen-wielding to put his choice into the permanent leadership position at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The ATF has been without a permanent director in six years. Acting Director B. Todd Jones is essentially a part-timer while he keeps his job as a U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis -- since August 2011.
Before Jones began, the last acting director, Kenneth E. Melson, resigned in the fallout from Project Gunrunner.
But the administration's take is that the rudderless chaos at the agency tasked with enforcing gun laws already on the books is clearly the fault of Congress.
"I think that it's a simple fact that it's been a very long time since the Senate has confirmed a head of the ATF. And it needs to act," Carney said. "…Usually when there's a case of nominations being held up and congressional inaction, the problem is often with Congress."
Or, the problem could be Obama's pick.
In late 2010, Obama tapped the head of the ATF's Chicago office to lead the bureau. The nomination of Andrew Traver, now leading the Denver office, has been frozen ever since.
"Traver has been deeply aligned with gun-control advocates and anti-gun activities," the National Rifle Association said at the time. "This makes him the wrong choice to lead an enforcement agency that has almost exclusive oversight and control over the firearms industry, its retailers and consumers."
The NRA launched stoptraver.org and orchestrated a legislative push against the nomination.
"According to published reports, Traver is a Chicago political crony, hand-picked for this job by former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- the Brady Campaign’s key ally during Bill Clinton’s eight-year war on our Second Amendment rights," the NRA said in its action alert.
"An agency such as BATFE, that is involved in the regulation of a fundamental, individual right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, should not be led by an individual with a demonstrated hostility toward that freedom. "