By Kate Sullivan, CNN
President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received an endorsement from a big law enforcement group on Friday.
The president of the Major County Sheriffs of America, Sheriff Dennis Lemma, sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee leaders to express his association’s support of Steve Dettelbach to lead the ATF. The MCSA represents 110 of the largest elected sheriffs’ offices in the nation.
Dettelbach, a former US attorney from Ohio, faces a tough road to confirmation in the Senate largely because gun-rights groups routinely oppose any nominee for the agency that regulates guns. Biden’s last nominee to lead the ATF, David Chipman, failed to garner enough support in the chamber because of his past record on gun control. The agency has had a series of acting directors and has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2013.
The MCSA board of directors recently met with Dettelbach to discuss challenges facing the law enforcement community, including combating violent crime involving so-called “ghost guns,” Lemma said in the letter addressed to the committee’s chair, Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, and top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Dettelbach “expressed his commitment to working collaboratively and cooperatively with law enforcement leaders across the country, including the MCSA, to tackle the range of issues,” according to Lemma’s letter.
Earlier this month, the President announced a new firearm regulation meant to contain the use of ghost guns, which are unregulated, untraceable weapons that can be quickly made from kits bought online. The new regulation will address a key gap in the government’s ability to track these guns by requiring background checks before purchase and serial numbers on some of the components. The announcement was made at the same White House event at which Biden put forward Dettelbach’s nomination.
Lemma said Dettelbach has a “proven track record of working with federal, state, and local law enforcement in fighting violent crime,” and said he has “worked alongside the ATF through cases fighting domestic terrorism, anti-religion, hate crime and violent extremism.”
Dettelbach was previously unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio under President Barack Obama. He has held positions within the Justice Department, the Senate Judiciary Committee and has served on the Ohio Ethics Commission. He ran a failed bid for attorney general of Ohio in 2018.
In February, the MCSA gave an award to Vanita Gupta, the US associate attorney general, at their annual winter conference in Washington. Attorney General Merrick Garland also spoke at the conference and focused his remarks on the administration’s efforts to curb violent crime.
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CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this report.