Obama’s Pick for ATF Chief Is ‘Anti-Gun,’ Say Pro-Second Amendment Groups

By Chris Johnson | November 24, 2010 | 5:45 AM EST

Andrew Traver, nominated by President Obama to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Gun rights advocates are unhappy with President Barack Obama’s pick  to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Obama announced on Nov. 15 his intent to nominate Andrew Traver, presently the special agent in charge of the ATF's Chicago office, to be the director of the agency.

Both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) criticized the president’s selection.

According to the NRA, "Traver has been deeply aligned with gun control advocates and anti-gun activities. 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.”

Alan Gottlieb, chairman of CCRKBA, told CNSNews.com that as ATF director, Traver would exercise vast control over all levels of the firearm industry.

“First of all, the big concern that we have is that the agency that he would be overseeing controls all the firearm regulations against everybody in the United States starting with the manufacturers and the wholesalers and the distributors down to the gun dealers,” said Gottlieb.

“They can deny dealers licenses, they can decide that a person doesn’t sell enough guns to be a dealer or sells too many guns and should be a dealer, all kinds of regulations on how the stores have to operate, what kind of security devices they have to have, all kinds of inspections,” said Gottlieb. “There are a whole lot of monkey wrenches that can be thrown into the firearm industry very quietly behind the scenes.”

“And there’s not a whole lot anyone can do about it.” He said,  “because Congress has given them the authority to basically impose their own regulations.”

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Control Gun Violence, disagrees. He says that Congress has tied the hands of the BATFE as it tries to develop new ways to crack down on gun law violations.

“Right now Congress has made it very hard for [the BATFE] to do its job even if it does have staff,” said Helmke. “They can’t require that gun dealers keep an inventory. It’s real hard to figure out if they’ve been selling guns under the table or illegally if they’re not required to do an inventory. They’re only allowed to do an inspection once every 12 months.”

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“Somebody can come in and check if you’re selling cigarettes or alcohol to minors any day, but you can’t do that with guns,” said Helmke. “Just giving them the power to try to track down on the illegal traffickers and guns would be something major.”

Helmke’s organization is happy with the President Obama’s choice to head the BATFE. “[W]e were very happy that he nominated Traver,” said Helmke. “Everything we hear of Traver is very positive.”

The Brady Center is an organization that pushes for more regulations on firearms.

“We believe that law-abiding citizens should be able to buy and keep firearms,” said Helmke. “And we believe there are sensible gun laws that we can and should insist upon when it comes to gun ownership. … [T]here are certain classes of weapons that should be out of bounds for private ownership. They include Saturday-night specials, which are used almost exclusively for crime, military-style assault weapons like Uzis and AK-47s, and .50-caliber sniper rifles, which serve no ordinary sporting purpose.”

Both the NRA and the CCRKBA cited Traver’s involvement in the 2007 Great Lakes Summit on Firearm Violence, conducted by the International Association for Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Joyce Foundation, both gun control advocates, as proof of his position on gun laws.

The conference released a subsequent report, “Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in our Communities,” which called for measures such as state and local licensing of firearms dealers on top of the federal licenses already required. It also suggested that “state and local governments should regulate and/or limit the sale of multiple handguns as a measure to reduce gun trafficking.”

The CCRKBA and the NRA also drew attention to a recommendation in the report to ban certain rifles from being sold at all, and regulations which could help put an end to gun shows.

“Traver helped develop the IACP/Joyce Foundation report, which recommended banning an array of modern sport-utility rifles and .50-caliber rifles used in long-range competition,” Gottlieb said.

The report also encouraged Congress to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment that protects sensitive trace data used by law enforcement in criminal investigations from being misused in frivolous municipal lawsuits that have consistently lost in court, and urged the adoption of restrictive gun show regulations that would effectively force them to close.”

The NRA also mentioned Traver’s involvement in a report by a Chicago NBC affiliate that apparently mischaracterized gun dealers and suggested that they sold automatic weapons to gangs.

“Traver also participated in an extremely deceptive NBC Chicago report,” said the NRA,  in which he referred to ‘the growing frequency of gang members and drug dealers using heavy caliber military-type weapons’ and described them as if they were machine guns: ‘Pull the trigger and you can mow people down.’”

The NRA said that Traver knew better.

“As the Agent-in-Charge of Chicago’s BATFE office, Traver knows that fully automatic firearms are not available through normal retail channels -- the opposite of what was implied in the report,” said the NRA.

A date has not yet been set for Traver’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate.

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