KLOBUCHAR: “Time and time again these shootings happen. Whether it's what happened in Buffalo, whether it is what happened yesterday, Sandy Hook…[These shootings] are just happening too much in this country.”
WASHINGTON – At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Steve Dettelbach to be Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) emphasized the need to combat gun violence in the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“Time and time again these shootings happen. Whether it's what happened in Buffalo, whether it is what happened yesterday, Sandy Hook…[These shootings are] just happening too much in this country,” said Klobuchar.
Klobuchar also urged the ATF to work with local enforcement to address the proliferation of dangerous firearm conversion devices: “So-called auto sear gun modification devices…can effectively turn a semi automatic into a fully automatic. These devices can sadly be purchased cheaply online or 3D printed, installed in a minute. They are often imported from overseas and can be purchased for as little as $19.” Last November, Klobuchar and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) called on the Department of Justice to collaborate with state and local law enforcement to prevent the use and expanding availability of these gun modification devices.
In 2013, Klobuchar led the successful efforts to confirm the last permanent director of the ATF, Todd B. Jones, a Minnesota native and the former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota.
Senator Klobuchar: I think it [this hearing] is so important right now, as Senator Padilla has pointed out, that with such passion. And you have, Senator Durbin. Time and time again these shootings happen, whether it's what happened in Buffalo, whether it is what happened yesterday, Sandy Hook.
I remember after Parkland, actually being invited when President Trump was in office, over to the White House, and I still have the piece of paper where I wrote down how many times he said that he wanted to get universal background checks done. Not once, not twice, not three times, but nine times at that meeting he said he wanted to get universal background checks done. Then the next day he went and he met with the NRA. And he changed his tune. He changed his mind. And I think that is just happening too much in this country. And it's time to stand up to them.
Mr. Dettelbach, just so you know, I ushered through the last ATF nominee that actually made it, and that was Todd Jones of the state of Minnesota. And he got Republican support. I remember we had to leave the vote open on the floor for hours, but we got it done. And I certainly hope that happens with you with your background, with everything as has been pointed out, including what the president of the International Association of Police has said, the support that you have had from the Federal Law Enforcement Association, Major County Sheriffs of America. And I actually talked about you to my U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, who knows you, and I've heard from him and others about the work that you've done to combat gun violence. And can you tell me about some of the successful initiatives that you had as U.S. Attorney to address gun violence?
Dettelbach: Thank you, Senator. And the two U.S. attorneys I've worked with from your district were both incredible people, Todd Jones and Andy Luger, I had the privilege of working with them. And I learned a lot from hearing the things that they were doing in your state. One program that I thought was a very, very good program was something called the NOVCC program, the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium. And it was a program that was actually started by my predecessor, the Bush U.S. Attorney, an excellent program. But it involved trying to use grant money to get the eight largest police departments in the district to pilot programs about data usage and data-driven policing. And so one of the problems that local law enforcement faces is that they just don't have enough funds sometimes to be creative. They’re so busy and so focused on 9-1-1 response time, as we can all understand. And so we were able to through the Department of Justice starting this task force to give them, the Chief, some money to be creative with and it was incredible to see what they came up with. Every city was different. They all spent it on different things. One wanted better camera systems that fed directly into 9-1-1 responses. A second one wanted to focus on gathering data from a certain district in their city that had high crime. And so that was a great program and it involved, as all these do, listening to local law enforcement about what they need.
Senator Klobuchar: Very good. I truly appreciate that. Just one last question, because I know you've had a long hearing as Senator Durbin pointed out. Last November, Senator Booker and I sent a letter to Attorney General Garland about the proliferation of so-called auto sear gun modification devices, which can effectively turn a semi-automatic into a fully automatic. And these devices can sadly be purchased cheaply online or 3D printed, installed in a minute. They are often imported from overseas, can be purchased for as little as $19. How can the ATF help local law enforcement, as you talked about that partnership, to address the use of these illegal devices?
Dettelbach: Senator, I'm generally familiar with the problems involving converting weapons that are legal weapons into illegal weapons, and automatic weapons, of course, fall into that category. I don't know about where things stand, certainly, currently on that. But I would commit to you, Senator, if I'm confirmed that I could look into that. And I would love to work together to try to find solutions.
Senator Klobuchar: All right. Well, thank you. I wish you well, I hope we can get your nomination done swiftly. Thank you.