President Barack Obama’s selection on November 17, 2010, of Andrew “Andy” Traver, a career ATF agent, to lead the agency was greeted with hostility from the gun-rights lobby. Gaining confirmation of the nomination in the Senate is expected to be a challenge. In fact, prior to 2005, the ATF director did not require Senate confirmation. Republicans blocked President George W. Bush’s nominee, Michael Sullivan, claiming he was not sufficiently sensitive to gun dealers. Since then, the bureau has been run by acting directors, who do not need to be confirmed.
Prior to beginning his ATF career, Traver graduated from the Naval Officer Candidate School and from the Surface Warfare Officer School in Coronado, California. Upon graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Benjamin Stoddert in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
He attended college at Northern Illinois University, where he graduated in 1985, summa cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice.
It was then off to Washington, DC, where he was a criminal investigator in the Office of Inspection in ATF headquarters until 2000.
He relocated again, to the New Orleans Field Division office, serving as the assistant special agent in charge and coordinating criminal enforcement efforts throughout the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
From 2001 to 2004, he was based out of ATF’s San Francisco office. As an assistant special agent in charge, he supervised criminal enforcement offices in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
Traver returned to the Chicago field office in 2004, becoming special agent in charge. For the next six years, he oversaw investigations of the illicit use and trafficking of firearms and explosives and the commission of arson, and directed all ATF law enforcement programs within the state of Illinois. He is best known in Chicago for his efforts against gang violence.
In 2008, at the age of 44, Traver was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
His nomination to lead ATF was met with criticism from gun-rights organizations, such as the National Rifle Association and others. Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado, told the Christian Science Monitor that Obama “picked a strong anti-Second Amendment person for an administrative job that has far more influence over the practical exercise of Second Amendment rights than any other job in the country.”