Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Fast Forward

Steven Dettelbach, nominee for ATF chief, highlights his Judaism at Senate hearing

Dettelbach vowed to stay above the political fray and focus on combating hate crime as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Steven Dettelbach, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), pledged to focus on combating hate crimes and gun violence during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

“Violent crime is increasing, firearms violence and mass shootings are increasing, hate crimes and religious violence are increasing, as is violent extremism,” Dettelbach said in opening remarks. “If confirmed, I promise to do everything I can to enforce the law, to respect the Constitution of the United States and to partner with law enforcement to protect the safety and the rights of innocent and law-abiding Americans.”

Dettelbach, who is Jewish, recounted his personal experience of “raising Jewish children as a religious minority in this country” and witnessing attacks on synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to tout his qualifications for the job. He started publicly embracing his Jewish faith following the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. 

A Cleveland native, Dettelbach previously served as U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Ohio during the Obama administration and has a 30-year record as a federal prosecutor. 

The hearing was dominated by the horrific shooting attack at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday that killed 19 children and two adults. It was the largest school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Dettelbach was endorsed by two officials from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the site of the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

Democratic members noted that the Uvalde attack and the deadly shooting in Buffalo earlier this month made the appointment even more important, while Republicans used the opportunity to push back against gun-control legislation, and criticized his past advocacy for the reinstatement of an assault-weapons ban.

Dettelbach was introduced by his hometown Senator, Sherrod Brown. “Steve has lived the value of religious freedom, and consistently stood up against hate and extremism, no matter whom it was directed at,” Brown said. 

The White House urged his swift confirmation in the wake of the recent attacks. There has been no Senate-confirmed director for ATF since 2015. Dettelbach received unanimous support in his previous confirmation for U.S. attorney in 2009. Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia and a key vote in the divided 50-50 Senate, has yet to commit to voting in favor of the nomination. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican ranking member of the committee, said he still had concerns about approving a gun control advocate “for a position that requires respect for the Second Amendment.”

Dettelbach vowed to keep political matters out of consideration and “work together to make things better” if confirmed. “Politics can play no role in law enforcement,” he said.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning journalism this Passover.

In this age of misinformation, our work is needed like never before. We report on the news that matters most to American Jews, driven by truth, not ideology.

At a time when newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall. That means for the first time in our 126-year history, Forward journalism is free to everyone, everywhere. With an ongoing war, rising antisemitism, and a flood of disinformation that may affect the upcoming election, we believe that free and open access to Jewish journalism is imperative.

Readers like you make it all possible. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Passover Pledge Drive and we still need 300 people to step up and make a gift to sustain our trustworthy, independent journalism.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Only 300 more gifts needed by April 30

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.