Former ATF Agent On Obama Executive Action: ‘This Really Doesn’t Change Anything’


A former ATF special agent and commander who supports gun control measures told Brian Williams after President Obama’s announcement from the White House on Tuesday that the president’s executive action to expand background checks will not lead to any meaningful policy change.

Jim Cavanaugh, a 33-year veteran of the ATF, lamented the president’s proposals.

“This really doesn’t change anything. This being sold as a change in background checks is just not there,” Cavanaugh said. “I mean, there’s nothing there. This is just a restatement of existing law.”

Obama claimed his executive action would close the “gun-show loophole” allowing private citizens to sell their guns without being considered a gun retailer.

“This does not increase background checks,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s sort of oversold.”

Cavanaugh minimized the effect 200 more ATF operatives would have because there was not enough funding for the agency. Although he applauded the president’s passion for gun control, calling it the best thing to come out of the day, the former ATF official predicted nothing new would come of the president’s controversial move.

“There really is nothing there,” Cavanaugh said.

The NBC law enforcement expert criticized Obama for a number of steps the president has not taken yet to assist his former organization’s goals. He suggested at least 1,000 more agents be hired, a director be appointed, and use of certain surveillance tools be reinstated to enforce the laws already in existence.

“It’s our daily business. They will do a good job and they will do that kind of job within the law,” Cavanaugh said. “But it would be nice if the president would appoint a director. I mean, that would give a message to the ATF that we’re behind you.”

Daniel Bassali   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Daniel Bassali is a Media Analyst for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from The George Washington University in 2014. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, he worked as a Press Assistant and Travel Aide on the Dr. Monica Wehby for U.S. Senate campaign in Oregon. Daniel is from Burke, Virginia, and lives in Washington D.C. His Twitter handle is @bassalid. You can reach him at

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