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Pascrell Calls on Senate to Quickly Confirm ATF Chief in Wake of Uvalde School Massacre

Senate opened hearings for nominee Steve Dettelbach

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), the longtime co-chairman of the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus, today praised the Senate for holding a hearing on Steve Dettelbach to be the next Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and called on the Senate to expeditiously confirm the clearly qualified nominee.

“The unspeakable tragedy at Robb Elementary School adds urgency to stopping gun violence in America,” said Rep. Pascrell. “The ATF is at the very forefront of gun crimes. Like any organization, the ATF demands a fulltime leader to operate at its best. For decades, at the behest of the NRA and other gun extremists, Senate Republicans have deliberately denied the ATF leadership to decapitate the agency and block it from preventing gun crimes. Republican sabotage of ATF is a national disgrace While we have the chance, we must fill the leadership vacuum at ATF. Steve Dettelbach’s qualifications are sterling and unquestioned. The Senate should confirm him without delay. If the Senate can’t confirm an ATF leader now we should all be ashamed. No more excuses.”

Rep. Pascrell is a longtime advocate of the ATF in Congress. Pascrell is the lead sponsor of H.R. 3536, the Crime Gun Tracing Modernization Act, which will finally give the ATF the ability to electronically search for the records of guns used in crimes across the country.

After a firearm associated with a crime is discovered somewhere in the United States, federal, state, or local law enforcement officials contact the ATF, which then must re-create the chain of custody of the firearm. Yet for decades the ATF has been blocked from digitizing millions of gun sales records already in the ATF’s possession so they can be searched by computers at its National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the only federal facility that maintains gun sales records in the U.S.  This outdated restriction requires sifting through the ATF’s mountains of paper records, a laborious process that delays investigations and drains law enforcement resources.

This year the ATF is expected to receive more than 100 million gun sales records, many frayed or in decaying condition. In 2020, the ATF received 490,844 trace requests and processed 68,400,000 paper records. With the ATF receiving approximately 1,700 crime gun traces per day, this paper-based system can create serious delays in criminal investigations in jurisdictions in all 50 states.

The Crime Gun Tracing Modernization Act would provide a simple, narrow change in the law to allow the ATF to electronically search crime gun sales records already in its possession. The law would neither expand the universe of records the ATF is permitted to access, nor allow the ATF to search for information it already has access to. Importantly, the legislation will allow ATF searches for criminal and national security investigations only and for no other purpose.

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