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New ATF director says there's "no one solution" to ending gun violence

ATF head on mass shootings, rising gun violence
ATF Director Steve Dettelbach on mass shootings, rising gun violence 08:49

Steven Dettelbach, the newly sworn-in director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said there is no overarching answer to solving the nation's gun violence, even as guns have become the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. 

"One of the things that makes this problem so hard is that it looks way different depending on where you are," Dettelbach told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell in an interview Tuesday. 

Dettelbach acknowledged that the problem is "urgent," but said it's hard to compare the issue as seen in large cities like New York City and Chicago with places like South, Alaska and small towns. 

"The reason that we're having a hard time coming up with one solution is because there is no one solution. The solutions are different, based upon where things are," he said. 

Following his confirmation last week, Dettelbach was ceremonially sworn in as ATF director earlier Tuesday, making him just the second Senate-confirmed director in the agency's history and the first permanent director the agency has had in more than seven years. 

He is helming the ATF amid a wave of mass shootings and a rise in gun violence across the U.S., which have fueled a renewed push for gun control measures. Last month, President Biden signed into law the most significant gun control bill in decades, though it still fell short of what gun control advocates wanted. 

ATF director on efforts to fight gun violence 03:17

Although he has called for an assault weapons ban in the past, when asked Tuesday what laws he would like to see changed to help the ATF stop gun violence, Dettelbach punted to Congress. 

"As the ATF director, my focus is and is going to have to be on taking whatever laws Congress provides, what is already there, taking the technology that's there, taking the resources that are there, and catching the bad guys," he said. "The ATF director's job and ATF, our mission is to catch people who have violated the laws we already have." 

But when pressed on what the ATF can do about mass shootings, he did concede part of the focus needs to be on "prevention," including giving people in the prison system "options other than going back to doing the same thing that got them there." 

"I'm coming into this position with a sober view of the challenge ahead," he said. 

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