A few weeks ago, the Trump administration announced that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was being replaced by the National Institute of Justice.
That meant that the ATF was going to get an entirely new leader, and a new head, and the ATF would have to rebuild its organization.
And that, for many people, was the worst thing that could happen to ATF.
The ATF was supposed to be a powerful agency that was in charge of enforcing the gun laws of the United States, but it was so weak that many lawmakers believed it had become a political punching bag for the Trump Administration.
They felt like ATF was no longer able to be an effective law enforcement agency, and that the Trump-era administration was not only incompetent but uninterested in making sure that it was doing the right thing.
“We’re not a law enforcement entity,” Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said in January.
“There is no law enforcement department in the United Kingdom, and there’s no law Enforcement Agency in America.
We’ve got to do a better job.
So the ATF is our number one priority, and it’s not a bad job, and we’re not going to let that happen.”
“The ATF is one of the most powerful agencies in the world,” Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, told the Washington Post.
“It is our responsibility as a nation to keep it in a place where it can serve as a deterrent and as a source of accountability for people who commit crimes, as well as deterring crime, for the benefit of our country.”
“It’s the biggest federal law enforcement and security agency in the country, but there’s not much accountability in the way of enforcement,” Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democratic representative from Maryland, said.
“So we need a new agency.”
So Congress passed the Second Amendment Protection Act, which required the Attorney General to establish an Office of Special Counsel to investigate possible civil rights violations by ATF.
And the ATF became a top priority, but not a top target.
In January, the ATF, with the support of the Department of Justice, was tasked with making changes to the agency’s culture, and they started with an ambitious goal: To make sure that the new ATF leadership would be responsive to the communities they serve.
This was the agency that worked in the communities where gun violence happened, and was tasked to identify and address those crimes.
But for many of the same reasons, the leadership of the ATF didn’t live up to expectations.
“The American people should be concerned about the ATF being understaffed, overworked, underpaid, undercompensated,” Senator Johnson said.
Senator Johnson also noted that the number of employees was too low, and he noted that, because of the changes to ATF’s structure, the Bureau could not afford to hire a lot of new employees.
And yet, despite these concerns, the number and scope of crimes committed by firearms in the US decreased by nearly 20 percent between 2014 and 2017, according to the ATF.
Even though Congress passed legislation to improve the ATF’s management and oversight of its operations, the new leadership didn’t have the authority to do anything about it.
That was until the President signed an executive order on February 4, 2018, appointing the acting ATF director to oversee the agency.
“This is an important step toward restoring ATF to its former glory,” said Senator Johnson.
“If we can keep it running, the American people will be able to keep guns off the streets.
And if we can’t, then we’re going to have a very bad time.”
On March 3, the Department’s new chief of staff, David L. Shulkin, announced that he was resigning.
He told reporters that he “would like to extend my commitment to the American public, to the people of this country, to our country, and to the country’s laws.”
“When you’re looking for the most effective way to protect and serve the American taxpayer, you’re not looking at bureaucrats,” said Representative Cummings.
“You’re looking at people.”
“I’m not sure if you’re aware of the fact that the National Rifle Association was very vocal in opposition to the fact of the President appointing David Shulkins to the position of acting ATF Director,” said Congressman Johnson.
Senator Tom Cotton, a conservative Republican from Arkansas, echoed those concerns.
“I think that it’s a good idea for the American taxpayers to see that David Shulskin was the person who was appointed to lead the ATF,” Cotton said.
But there are also those who feel that the leadership at ATF was simply not responsive to requests from the public.
“That was an agency that’s been out of the loop for a long time, a lot longer than most of us think,” Representative Cummings said.
Congressman Cotton added that, even though the agency has been slow to take steps to improve its operations in recent years, he felt that the agency was not responsive enough