(c) by Mary Griggs
Here he goes again. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) continues to move further and further out of step with his constituents. Now, he is blocking the confirmation of Michael Sullivan to be head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (of which he has been acting director since 2006).
Vitter believes that the ATF holds gun dealers and owners to unreasonable licensing standards. And he lacks confidence that Sullivan will address his concerns. “. . . So I am going to hold this nominee,” he said in a statement to the Boston Globe.
What standard, you may ask? Anyone in law enforcement (or with an iota of common sense) will tell you that guns used to commit crimes are often stolen, trafficked, bought off the books, or obtained from kitchen-table sellers, gun shows or corrupt dealers. Consistent with President Bush’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative, Sullivan has mounted an attack on these weapons. Further, Sullivan had the gall to suggest that the ATF should share more of its data. The agency maintains an excellent database that checks guns used in crimes against purchase records of federal licensees. Until 2003, the agency encouraged police and municipalities to use the data to scrutinize gun dealers with histories of supplying illegal markets. It led to effective gun enforcement strategies. But the National Rifle Association, working with US Representative Todd Tiahrt, Republican of Kansas, stripped the trace data from the public domain.
Even President Bush appears to be growing aware of the link between the easy availability of guns and the ongoing carnage. He recently signed a law that gives incentives to states to improve background check systems. That should help to keep guns out of the hands of some dangerous people. But the greater need is to close the gun show loophole that allows convicted felons, domestic abusers, and dangerously mentally ill people to walk into gun shows and buy weapons from unlicensed private sellers without background checks.
Instead of doing something to about it, Senator Vitter said the bureau holds gun dealers and owners to unreasonable licensing standards and subjects them to severe penalties if they make errors in paperwork. Vitter described as burdensome regulations imposed on gun owners and dealers by the bureau and said in a statement released to the Boston Globe: “The nominee seems to support the ATF’s current inadequate policies and exhibits a lack of willingness to address these problems.”
Under Senate rules, a single senator can put a hold on legislative action for months. Vitter and two Republican senators from Idaho, Larry Craig and Mike Crapo, have held up Sullivan’s confirmation since December, saying the bureau is overly aggressive in enforcing gun laws.
Senator Larry Craig’s spokesman, Dan Whiting, said this week that the senator’s objections have less to do with Sullivan than with the ATF, saying that small gun dealers have viewed the bureau with mistrust since the Clinton administration. Whiting said Craig feels the best way to register his concerns with ATF is “with the leverage of moving a nominee through the Senate.”
Can someone tell me again why these two guys are even still in office after their sex scandals? And why the current rash of school shootings hasn’t prompted them to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to do some good for the nation?
In light of the recent horrific gun violence on our high school and college campuses across this nation, the ATF should share gun purchase data with local law enforcement and should continue to close the ‘kitchen table sales’ loophole in reporting. Michael Sullivan will do that if confirmed. Senator Vitter should withdraw his hold on the nomination.