ATF Get Its First Confirmed Director in 7 Years

B. Todd Jones appeared before the Senate in June. B. Todd Jones appeared before the Senate in June. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

More than six months after his nomination by President Obama, B. Todd Jones has been confirmed by the Senate to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The 53-42 vote, which came Wednesday after last-minute logrolling among Senators following a new agreement on curbing filibusters, was welcomed by agency alumni and gun control groups.

Jones, a U.S. attorney from Minnesota, had been serving simultaneously as acting director of the agency that has been troubled by seven years of temporary leadership, reduced budgets and political controversy over a botched gun-tracking operation called Fast and Furious.

“This is really an important event for ATF,” Bradley Buckles, who was ATF director and then acting director in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and is now a vice president at the Recording Industry Association of America. “For the first time in seven years, it’s going to be able to start moving forward and making the agency better and not be stuck in a perpetual holding pattern.”

Jones is a “strong leader with a great sense of what things need to be done, who will now be able to get people on board with his vision of things,” Buckles told Government Executive. He “recognizes he’s in the law enforcement business,” Buckles added, “so you won’t see the ATF engaging in surreptitious gun regulation, which is what everyone suspects it does.”

The National Rifle Association decided not to oppose or support the Jones nomination, according to a Wednesday report from U.S. News & World Report. The gun rights group declined a request for comment.

Jones’ arrival was welcomed by the Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who said on Wednesday, “For years, we have called for permanent leadership at the ATF and action on the nomination of Todd Jones. Today we can finally say the agency responsible for enforcing our gun laws will have a permanent director with the leadership skills to help in the fight to prevent gun violence.

“For the past six years, the gun lobby leadership has fought vigorously against giving the agency the leadership and resources they need to enforce our gun laws,” Gross said in a statement. “This is a sound defeat in their continued campaign to not only block new common-sense gun laws, but also to hamstring the ATF from enforcing the laws on the books.”

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