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Published on June 14, 2022
(Washington, D.C.) — Amid a string of mass shootings across the country over the last few weeks, the federal government’s top job on guns remains vacant. The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) passed a resolution today calling for the United States Senate to immediately confirm Steven Dettelbach to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The call follows negotiations among a group of 20 Senators seeking to lay out a pathway to common sense gun violence prevention legislation.
The United States has not had a Senate-confirmed director of the ATF in nearly a decade. AAMA’s resolution outlines how a Senate-confirmed ATF Director is crucial to robust implementation and enforcement of gun laws by providing necessary leadership over the agency’s efforts to shut down gun trafficking and rogue gun dealers, and guiding the actions of thousands of ATF agents across the country to ensure the agency is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling gun violence.
Over 2,600 people in America have been shot and killed since the mass shooting in Uvalde, TX on May 24. The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the nomination of Steve Dettelbach during a hearing a day following the tragic Texas school shooting.
President of AAMA, Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. (Little Rock, Arkansas) said, “The federal government is not powerless to address this unprecedented national surge in gun violence. The Senate can start by installing a strong leader in the only federal agency that oversees guns. Steve Dettelbach is an experienced prosecutor who has a proven track record of partnering with law enforcement, including ATF, to prosecute and take down violent criminals and extremists. As we saw in the Buffalo massacre, guns make hate and white supremacy deadlier. The ATF needs a leader who knows how to tackle domestic extremism, and Steve Dettelbach has decades of experience doing just that.”
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard (Mount Vernon, NY), first Vice President of AAMA, said, “The current lack of leadership at the ATF undoubtedly lessens its effectiveness at enforcing the laws that prevent gun violence and protect public safety. The string of horrific mass shootings that have occurred since Steve Dettelbach’s nomination hearing should set off alarm bells for the Senate. There is no time to waste; Dettelbach must be installed as ATF director immediately.”
“Mayors across the country are dealing with a scourge of gun violence due to the pervasiveness of illegal firearms, including untraceable ghost guns. Baltimore just filed a lawsuit against the nation’s largest ghost gun manufacturer, Polymer80, to stop the public health crisis that the company has caused. Ghost guns are a devastating menace to the people of Baltimore. This suit will hold Polymer80 accountable for the harm it has caused in Baltimore, sending a message to all others, not in our town, not in our city,” said AAMA Board Member, Mayor Brandon Scott (Baltimore, MD). “But we, as mayors, are calling for national support, too. Strong ATF leadership that focuses on illegal gun trafficking in partnership with state and local law enforcement is essential to fighting violent crime. Steve Dettelbach will be a strong leader for ATF.”
In addition to passing a resolution in support of Steve Dettelbach to lead the ATF, Black mayors across the country are advocating for federal gun violence prevention legislation. This includes:
Enhancing background checks for buyers under 21.
Passing a federal red flag law, to prevent individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or accessing firearms.
Cracking down on ghost guns and manufacturers of unserialized “buy build shoot” kits that individuals can buy without a background check and can readily assemble.
Investing in mental health services and access.
Clarifying the definition of a gun dealer so that it is clearer when people selling guns to strangers are required to obtain a Federal Firearms License and run background checks on all sales.
Disarming domestic abusers by addressing what is known as the “dating partner loophole”.
Funding school violence prevention efforts, training, and the implementation of safety measures at primary and secondary schools.
Increasing penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchasing, which is currently only prosecuted as a paperwork violation.
The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is the only organization exclusively representing over 500 African-American mayors across the United States. AAMA seeks to empower local leaders for the benefit of their citizens. The role of the AAMA includes taking positions on public policies that impact the vitality and sustainability of cities; providing mayors with leadership and management tools; and creating a forum for member mayors to share best practices related to municipal management.