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Despite gun debate, ATF still boxed in by politics

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Photo - FILE - In this June 11, 2013, file photo B. Todd Jones of Minnesota, President Barack Obama's nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), testifies at his nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. To the committee Jones knowledge that the ATF is "very much in distress". And repairing the agency, which is still boxed in by politics despite the gun debate, has not been easy for Jones so far. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
FILE - In this June 11, 2013, file photo B. Todd Jones of Minnesota, President Barack Obama's nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), testifies at his nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. To the committee Jones knowledge that the ATF is "very much in distress". And repairing the agency, which is still boxed in by politics despite the gun debate, has not been easy for Jones so far. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama picked B. Todd Jones to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it looked like the moment had arrived for the beleaguered ATF to reassert itself as an agency with teeth.

It was January, and the nation was embroiled in a rare debate on gun control, the result of the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school the previous month.

The White House pushed for tougher gun laws and Congress seemed unusually willing to consider them.

One by one, the bills failed — and Jones' nomination sat idle for eight months.

Two months into his tenure, Jones is stuck between a White House with high expectations for curbing gun violence and a Congress that has little appetite for strengthening his agency.

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