Durbin Questions President Biden's Nominee To Lead ATF During Judiciary Committee Hearing

Today’s nominations hearing also included two Circuit Court and two District Court nominees

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned Steven M. Dettelbach, nominated to be Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) during a Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing.  Durbin asked Mr. Dettelbach about the killing of Chicago Police Department Officer Ella French last year.  The gun that killed Officer French was bought in a straw purchase by an Indiana man on behalf of another man who had a felony record and could not lawfully buy a gun for himself.

“Last year in Chicago, my wife and I attend a memorial service for a Chicago policewoman.  Her name was Ella French.  She was gunned down in the streets of Chicago in her squad car and her partner was shot in the head as well.  He lost his sight in one eye.  The death of Ella French gripped that city like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Durbin.  “It turned out that the weapon that was used to kill her was a straw purchase… this so-called ‘straw purchase’ has been viewed in the past by some as a bookkeeping matter… low on the priority list.  When it came to the life of this policewoman, it was certainly not a misdemeanor matter.  It was a matter of life and death.”

Durbin continued, “What is the proper approach when we instruct federal licensees who are selling guns that they have a duty to accurately and honestly ascertain whether a person is eligible to guy a gun?”

Mr. Dettlebach responded that it is illegal to straw purchase and noted that the proper approach to enforcing these laws on the books is a team approach—working in tandem with state and local law enforcement and task forces.  Mr. Dettlebach also stated that if someone is found guilty of straw purchasing, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and that it is a “very serious violation.”

Durbin is a lead sponsor of federal legislation to combat straw purchasing and illegal trafficking in firearms in order to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.  The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2021 would, for the first time, make it an explicit federal crime, carrying felony penalties, to act as a straw purchaser of firearms, as opposed to current law, which treats straw purchases essentially as paperwork violations. 

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Today’s hearing also included the nominations of Sarah A.L. Merriam to be United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit; Lara E. Montecalvo to be United States Circuit Judge for the First Circuit; Tiffany M. Cartwright to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington; and Nina Nin-Yuen Wang to be United States District Judge for the District of Colorado.