Nadler Opening Statement for Hearing on Oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a hearing on the Oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives:
"Mr. Chairman, gun violence continues to take the lives of more than 100 Americans every single day. It changes how safe we feel in our homes, in our schools, and in our houses of worship. It reduces vibrant cities to somber headlines. It takes our loved ones—old and young—and leaves us with another anniversary of lives cut short and a community forever traumatized.
"We have already lost more than 13,000 Americans to gun deaths so far this year, including 80 young children, 469 teens, and 18 law enforcement officers. We are the only nation in the industrialized world that tolerates such gruesome statistics.
"It is against this sobering backdrop that Republicans have called this hearing to criticize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—the law enforcement agency tasked with keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
"At least Republicans are transparent about their goal: to pressure, intimidate, and hamstring the agency so that it can no longer effectively do its job and protect Americans from violent crime. Some Republicans have even introduced a bill to abolish the ATF altogether.
"That’s right: they seek to eliminate the law enforcement agency responsible for protecting communities from gun violence, stopping gun trafficking, and ensuring lawful and responsible gun ownership.
"Local law enforcement depends on ATF to provide resources that help them solve crimes and prevent gun violence.
"In a recent President’s Message in Police Chief Magazine, International Association of Chiefs of Police President John Letteney encouraged his fellow police chiefs to “take advantage of the no-cost systems offered by the ATF to help investigate and ultimately remove dangerous weapons from our communities.” He noted that “ATF has the only gun tracing platform in the United States that can be used by local, state, federal, and global law enforcement agencies to investigate criminal gun activity.”
"ATF also runs the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which provides local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement—at no cost—with ballistic imaging, a critical tool that can help solve crime and prevent further gun violence.
"ATF also carries out its mission by lending its expertise, such as by classifying weapons, advising prosecutors, and promulgating regulations, and by collaborating with various law enforcement agencies.
"As Chief Letteney explains, “collaboration can improve overall violence reduction strategies, while allowing each piece of the system to focus on what they do best.” Clearly, the President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police sees the great value that ATF provides. But some Republicans seek to abolish this agency and to end the work that it does to make Americans safer.
"Other Republicans merely seek to starve the agency of funding, to place additional restrictions on the use of its data that helps solve crimes and keep our communities safe, or to dismantle its regulations. In fact, just last week this Committee voted to prevent the ATF from regulating stabilizing braces, a device used in multiple mass shootings, including most recently in Nashville, to convert a pistol into a more dangerous short-barreled rifle.
"How can it be that the Majority says it stands with law enforcement, yet it seeks to abolish the only law enforcement agency with the capability of tracing crime guns? How can the Majority say that they support state and local police, while attempting to hamstring and starve the agency that provides them with so many critical resources for solving crime, including homicides, gun trafficking, and organized crime?
"The answer lies in another part of ATF’s responsibilities: making sure that gun dealers follow the law by conducting background checks, refusing to sell to those who are not allowed to have firearms, and keeping records so that crime guns can be traced. The overwhelming majority of gun sellers have no problem following these laws, but when gun dealers willfully refuse to follow them, it is ATF’s responsibility to revoke their license to sell.
"The ATF upheld that responsibility last year, revoking 92 licenses for gun sellers with serious willful violations—a tiny fraction of the over 130,000 licensed firearm dealers. But gun groups cried foul, claiming that such revocations are “crushing gun sellers.” And then Republicans introduced legislation to abolish the ATF.
"Republicans’ priorities are clear: they would prefer to keep every gun store in the country open—even those that willfully violate the law—rather than to let ATF save lives, simply by enforcing the law.
"It is essential that we conduct oversight of our agencies to ensure that they are fulfilling their missions, but today’s hearing makes no attempt to fulfill that responsibility. Instead, it shows how radically out-of-step my Republican colleagues are with the American people, law enforcement, and even many responsible gun owners.
"Democrats have put forth a range of solutions to prevent gun violence, to support law enforcement, and to solve crimes, but our colleagues across the aisle continue to push for unfettered access to assault weapons, concealable rifles, and ghost guns.
"As Republicans continue to seek freedom from gun regulation, we will continue to seek communities free from gun violence.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time."