What others say: Obama's ATF nominee

The Chicago Tribune

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

The following editorial recently appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

President Barack Obama's recent announcement of a broad gun violence agenda included an interesting nugget of news: He has given up on his nomination of Andrew Traver to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Traver, who headed the ATF field office in Chicago, was selected by Obama in 2010 to lead the agency. He ran into determined opposition from the gun lobby, which argued that he didn't sufficiently support gun rights.

Traver was a solid candidate for the job. But the gun lobby has blocked every candidate to be the director of ATF since 2006, when federal law was changed to require Senate confirmation for the position. President George W. Bush couldn't get confirmation for his well-qualified nominee, Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney from Massachusetts. The gun lobby blocked him, too.

Obama's new choice is B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota who has been acting director of ATF since 2011. The Marine Corps veteran has a strong record in law enforcement, including the prosecution of dozens of gun cases.

He's running into a ferocious fight to block his ATF nomination. Jones' critics complain that he has ties to Operation Fast and Furious, the notorious gun-trafficking investigation that allowed hundreds of firearms to be funneled illegally into Mexico.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the appointment of Jones is a "slap in the face" to victims of Fast and Furious.

Is it? Can the Senate conduct a fair hearing and vote on the nomination that rises or falls on the actual merits of the nominee?

The resistance to every candidate selected to head ATF calls that fairness into question. But here is a chance to give Jones an honest, public evaluation.

Jones appears to be a strong candidate. He is given credit, as the top federal prosecutor in Minnesota, for the aggressive prosecution of firearms crimes.

The worst thing the Senate can do is stall. Give Jones a fair hearing and call the vote. If discussing the cases for and against Jones leads to a fuller discussion of Fast and Furious, so much the better.

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