By Tim Devaney - 03/20/15 11:42 AM EDT
The director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is stepping down following controversy surrounding the agency’s proposal to ban certain types of ammunition.
The ATF announced Friday that Director B. Todd Jones is resigning at the end of the month “to pursue other opportunities in the private sector."
“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” Jones said in a statement. “I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to combating violent crime, ridding the streets of criminals, and leveraging all available resources to keep our communities safe.”
“I will truly miss leading and working side-by-side with these men and women in their pursuit of ATF’s unique law enforcement and regulatory mission,” he added.
Jones, who in July 2013 became the first ATF director to be confirmed by the Senate and led the agency after a scandal involving the agency's infamously botched Operation Fast and Furious gun tracking initiative, is departing shortly after the agency dropped a controversial attempt to ban certain armor-piercing bullets used in AR-15 rifles.
The episode was the latest in a series of flaps that has put the Obama administration's ATF at odds with many congressional Republicans. In recent weeks, GOP lawmakers have introduced legislation seeking to tamp down on the agency's authority — and to abolish the ATF altogether.
Jones’ resignation comes amid a firestorm over the ATF’s proposed bullet ban, which was shelved last week after the agency received tens of thousands of public comments opposing the move.
The ATF argued that banning 5.56mm armor-piercing bullets that can be used in handguns would protect police officers, but emphasized that it was not attempting to ban all types of bullets.
However, congressional Republicans and gun groups beat back the ATF’s proposed bullet ban, calling it an infringement on their Second Amendment rights.
“Second Amendment rights require not only access to firearms, but to bullets,” a group of 53 Republican senators wrote earlier this month in a letter to Jones.
“If law-abiding gun owners cannot obtain rifle ammunition, or face substantial difficulty in finding ammunition available and at reasonable prices because government entities are banning such ammunition, then the Second Amendment is at risk,” they continued.
The ATF backed off the proposed bullet ban the next day.
“The vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study,” the agency said. “Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework.”
In a statement anouncing Jones' departure, Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderRacial undercurrents inflame Uber fight over background checks Chaffetz seeks to hold Obama official in contempt over water rule Eric Holder goes to bat for Uber MORE lauded him for his service and "groundbreaking" law enforcement initiatives, including an effort to strengthen ballistic imaging technology that recently played a critical role in the investigation of the shooting of two police officers.
"As the first ever Senate-confirmed Director of ATF, his indelible legacy will serve as an inspiring example for all those who follow him," Holder said in a statement.
ATF deputy director Thomas Brandon will take over as acting director until the agency finds a replacement for Jones.