For Dettelbach, some of the problems on his hands are personal. With officials warning that faith-based communities will continue to be the targets of violence, he says his own faith has given him an important perspective on the matter.
“For too long — and I say this as somebody who’s dealt with a lot of victims in hate crimes and somebody who is Jewish American and raising Jewish children in this country — for too long I think it was too easy for us to write off some of the rhetoric that was going on as kind of harmless, crazy rhetoric right until it wasn’t harmless anymore,” he said.
“I think anti-religious violence is a very real and troubling thing that we’re facing. And it doesn’t just go to any one group. Whether you’re Muslim, whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Christian,” Dettelbach added. “I see reports of crimes that come across my phone daily and we’re facing a lot of anti-religious violence.”
Online forums linked to domestic violent extremists have referenced Jewish targets tied to conspiracy theories about Covid-19, the outcome of the 2020 election and “even the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and resettlement of Afghans to the United States,” according to an FBI and DHS letter obtained by CNN.
As a father, Dettelbach’s message to other parents concerned about their kids’ safety at school was an honest one: his agency will be relentless in its work to combat gun violence.
“There’s absolutely nothing that a dad or a leader of a law enforcement agency can say to those families, except that we’re going to be doing our best at ATF 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to try and help solve this problem,” he said.
Asked whether it feels there is an endless race against time to try to stop the next shooting, Dettelbach said: “You can call it an endless race to try and save people. You can call it the pounding, the pounding of (that’s) in my head, in our heads all the time.”
“So do I feel pressure? Yeah, I feel pressure. But it’s no more pressure than the 5,000 folks at ATF have been feeling for years trying to deal with this,” he said.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.