‘This is despicable’: Cory Booker slams Republicans for hobbling gun law enforcement at hearing for ATF nominee

‘This is despicable … the same people that tried to accuse us of defunding the police have taken one of the most important law enforcement agencies for protect[ing] Americans ,to protect our children, our churches, or mosques or synagogues or parks or supermarkets [and] it’s not allowed to do their job’

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Wednesday 25 May 2022 20:41
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Just one day after 19 children and two teachers were gunned down in the second worst school mass shooting in US history, Senator Cory Booker slammed Republicans for what he described as years of efforts to effectively neuter the federal agency responsible for enforcing the nation’s gun regulations.

Speaking at a Senate judiciary committee confirmation hearing for Steve Dettelbach — President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) — Mr Booker recalled visiting Washington when he was mayor of Newark, New Jersey and being told about the myriad “riders” — provisions inserted into federal appropriations bill to restrict how the agency can use federal funds — that prevent ATF from “using modern policing”.

“We're not supporting it. And we have done things to it like not allow it to use computers,” he said, referring to a provision in federal law that prohibits ATF from keeping records of gun purchases in a searchable electronic form.

“I know that they have to do background checks, … and then when the ATF tries to keep records of this, they have to keep them all on paper. And it gets so bad at the ATF that … they literally have to put them into shipping containers outside because the floor of the building would buckle,” he said. “It is so ridiculous what my Republican colleagues have done over the years to undermine law enforcement for protecting communities”.

Addressing Mr Dettelbach, the New Jersey Democrat praised him for being willing to serve as the ATF director despite all the handicaps placed upon it by Republicans.

“I just want you to know, God bless you for stepping up to lead an agency that hasn’t had a [Senate-confirmed] head for the longest time … because a very corporate industrial driven lobby is dictating policy here,” he said.

Continuing, Mr Booker tied the Republican efforts — which he called a “shameful charade” — to hobble ATF to Tuesday’s Uvalde, Texas school shooting.

“This is despicable … the same people that tried to accuse us of defunding the police have taken one of the most important law enforcement agencies for protect[ing] Americans ,to protect our children, our churches, or mosques or synagogues or parks or supermarkets [and] it’s not allowed to do their job,” he said. “And we yet again are sacrificing our children on the altar of inaction, and it hurts”.

He added that Congress has placed “barrier after barrier” in front of the ATF to the point that law enforcement in his state can’t do their jobs when they want to partner with the agency.

“I have faith that you will protect citizens, but the shame is not on you or your agents … because the shame is on this body for what we're not doing to support you,” he said.

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