One of the key missions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is to protect communities from “illegal use and trafficking of firearms.”As such, it’s unacceptable that Chuck Canterbury, President Trump’s nominee to lead the ATF, opposes any new federal gun regulation, including background checks for all gun sales.
Criminal background checks have stopped more than 3.5 million sales to convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives and other dangerous people. But because background checks aren’t required for private sales, one in five gun sales occurs without one.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Canterbury said he doesn’t “support any more restrictions than are currently in the law.” In response to questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Canterbury stated his opposition to expanding federal criminal background checks to all firearm sales and to banning assault-style weapons. Clearly trying to dodge questions about his positions on a whole range of federal gun regulations, Canterbury was accused by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) of being “evasive.”
What’s also clear is that the Canterbury—nominated to be one of the most senior officials in the federal government responsible for ensuring that guns don’t get into the wrong hands—favors gun rights over public safety. In 2009, as president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Canterbury proclaimed, “I take a back seat to no one in my reverence for the Second Amendment.”
The ATF needs a director that believes in common-sense federal gun regulation. The agency has lost its way, with senior officials in the agency taking direction from the NRA and routinely overturning the recommendations of field agents to revoke licenses of federal gun dealers who break the law. Even Sen. Kennedy, no friend of gun control, said Canterbury was “not qualified” to run the ATF.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, has been a steadfast leader on strong federal gun laws, but it’s still important that he hear from constituents who believe the next ATF Director should not be opposed to federal gun regulations that would address the public health crisis of gun violence in America.
Jonathan Perloe is Director of Programs and Communications for CT Against Gun Violence.