Politics

Does Obama’s nominee for head of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives oppose the Second Amendment?

Things had been looking up for gun-rights activists. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in D.C. v. Heller that Washington’s handgun laws were unconstitutional. In the summer of 2010, in McDonald v Chicago, the court expanded that ruling to apply to handgun laws in all 50 states.

Even President Obama seemed relatively open to Second Amendment rights, saying on the campaign trail: “I believe there is a Second Amendment right. I think it is an individual right. I think people have the right to lawfully bear arms.”

Now, it seems that when it comes to Obama and guns, he was for them before he was against them.

Last month, the president nominated Andrew Traver to be the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). But while gun-control advocates are lauding Obama’s nominee, others are worried Traver will implement strict gun rules by way of bureaucratic regulations rather than law.

Traver is a native of Chicago – a city with zero gun shops and that has had some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. There, he’s the special agent in charge of the city’s BATFE division. He supports banning .50-caliber rifles, something that would cause many gun shops to close.

Traver supports repealing the Tiahart Amendment, which prohibits the BATFE from releasing sensitive information from its database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor during a criminal investigation. The data that is released cannot be admitted as evidence in court in a civil lawsuit. The Amendment’s supporters say it protects gun owners and makers from frivolous lawsuits.

He is also involved with a group called the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which is associated with the Joyce Foundation. Both lobby for heavier gun control laws as a way to crack down on urban violence.

What is really getting gun advocates riled up is a statement Traver made just last year during an interview with NBC News. As NBC reported, “Traver says the power and randomness of the heavy caliber, military-style weapons make them so dangerous not only to people, but to police. They’re so powerful, body armor can’t withstand a hit, and they’re so difficult to control, their bullets often get sprayed beyond the intended targets, striking innocent victims even when they’re in their own homes.”

In the same interview, Traver said, “They see them in movies, they see them on television and in video games and it’s like ‘Oh, let’s get one of those.’ It gives them a lot of street cred.”

He also warned viewers about the “growing frequency of gang members and drug dealers using heavy caliber military-type weapons”

Gun enthusiasts say that Traver’s statements show he intentionally mislead the public by likening black-market automatic weapons with semi-automatic assault style rifles, which are legal.

Shortly after the president’s nomination, the National Rifle Association released a statement opposing Traver.

“Traver has been deeply aligned with gun control advocates and anti-gun activities. This makes him the wrong choice to lead an enforcement agency that has almost exclusive oversight and control over the firearms industry, its retailers and consumers,” said the press release.

It went on to say, “An agency involved in the regulation of a fundamental, individual right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution should not be led by an individual with a demonstrated hostility to that freedom”.

The BATFE regulates approximately 200 million guns in the U.S. Traver’s nomination needs to be confirmed by the Senate — unless President Obama makes Traver a recess appointment when Congress leaves at the end of the month.