President Barack Obama’s nominee to take over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) faces a pretty big hurdle to securing his confirmation by the Senate: opposition from the National Riffle Association.
It didn’t take long for the NRA to come out against Andrew Traver once his nomination was announced by the White House last Monday night. Less than two business days later, the NRA was out with a release not only opposing Traver’s nomination, but calling for Obama to withdraw the nomination altogether. ATF, the agency charged with enforcing the nation’s gun laws, has been without a permanent director since 2006.
“They might as well put an [arsonist] in charge of the fire department,” NRA’s top lobbyist Chris Cox told two radio hosts on an NRA-sponsored program in a clip posted on the NRA website.
“The nomination of Andrew Traver is more proof that Barack Obama has complete disregard for the Second Amendment and the rights of firearms owners,” Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Chairman Alan Gottlieb said in a statement.
The NRA contends that the “Gun Violence Reduction Project,” which was run through a partnership with the Joyce Foundation and IACP, shows that Traver is against the 2nd amendment. “Both IACP and the Joyce Foundation are names synonymous with promoting a variety of gun control schemes at the federal and state levels,” they said in a statement.
“That’s just guilt by association to the first degree,” Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence told TPM. “If you sit down in a room with the chiefs of police that the Joyce Foundation put on, you’re automatically suspect. They didn’t even go to the content of what was in any of these recommendations.”
As for the television interview, “Who knows what was left on the cutting room floor,” Helmke said.
According to his interview with the NRA-sponsored radio program, Cox’s opposition to Traver is based on Internet searches from when Traver’s name was first floated over the summer.
“I sat at my computer when this guy’s name was first brought up and Googled him,” Cox said, encouraging listeners to do so themselves.
Cox argued that Obama has surrounded himself with people like Attorney General Eric Holder and Vice President Joe Biden who have a “hatred and disrespect for our most basic fundamental rights.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure he’s not confirmed,” Cox said.
As TPM has reported, gun control advocates are themselves upset over what they say is lack of action from the administration on their key issues. They contend the administration is loathe to act or speak about any gun control issues because of how politically sensitive gun rights are .
The last confirmed director was Carl Truscott, who was very concerned with the aesthetics of ATF’s headquarters and wanted to purchase a $65,000 table for the director’s suite. President George W. Bush’s nominee, Michael Sullivan, faced oppositions from the gun lobby and was in an acting position until his resignation on Jan. 1, 2009.
Obama had Kenneth Melson take over the agency as acting director early on in his term, but he was demoted to deputy director due to a law limiting how long acting chiefs can head up federal agencies.
Meanwhile, legislation has been proposed that critics contend would weaken the ATF even further. That’s despite the fact that a recent Justice Department Inspector General report concluded that weak U.S. gun laws were making it more difficult for the agency to stop gun trafficking on the Mexican border.
A Justice Department spokeswoman referred requests for comment to the White House. Messages left with the White House and Traver’s office in Chicago were not immediately returned. The NRA had no immediate comment beyond their statement.
Watch the interview with Chris Cox below: