Obama’s new choice for ATF

Obama’s new choice for ATF

Chicago Tribune: President Barack Obama’s recent announcement of a broad gun violence agenda included an interesting nugget of news: He has given up on his nomination of Andrew Traver to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Traver, who headed the ATF field office in Chicago, was selected by Obama in 2010 to lead the agency. He ran into determined opposition from the gun lobby, which argued that he didn’t sufficiently support gun rights.

Traver was a solid candidate for the job. But the gun lobby has blocked every candidate to be the director of ATF since 2006, when federal law was changed to require Senate confirmation for the position. President George W. Bush couldn’t get confirmation for his well-qualified nominee, Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney from Massachusetts. The gun lobby blocked him, too.

Obama’s new choice is B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota who has been acting director of ATF since 2011. The Marine Corps veteran has a strong record in law enforcement, including the prosecution of dozens of gun cases.

He’s running into a ferocious fight to block his ATF nomination. Jones’ critics complain that he has ties to Operation Fast and Furious, the notorious gun-trafficking investigation that allowed hundreds of firearms to be funneled illegally into Mexico.

Jones succeeded ATF acting Director Kenneth Melson, who left under the cloud of Fast and Furious. Jones did not oversee the operation as it turned into disaster, but he is accused of protecting ATF employees who were involved in Fast and Furious, discouraging agency whistle-blowers and advising Attorney General Eric Holder, who has resisted efforts by Congress to fully investigate the scandal.

Can the Senate conduct a fair hearing and vote on the nomination that rises or falls on the actual merits of the nominee?

The resistance to every candidate selected to head ATF calls that fairness into question.

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