B. Todd Jones is leaving as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives effective March 31st. Speculation on this started building on Thursday and it was confirmed on Friday by the BATFE itself in a press release.
Coming on the heels of BATFE’s backpedaling on their M855/SS109 bullet/ammo ban, one might assume he was leaving to save the Obama Administration any more embarrassment over this debacle. Obama is famous for throwing people under the bus at the first sign of trouble.
I doubt that they expected the level of response from Congress, gun rights groups, and especially the public that they received. A reported 310,000 plus letters, faxes, and emails were sent to BATFE in response to their “ATF Framework”. The typical response is probably less than 10,000 comments to a proposed change and more than likely a lot less than that.
That said, while the M855 debacle may have played some role in the timing of the announcement, it my firm opinion that it isn’t the reason Jones is leaving BATFE for the NFL. One does not just leave one job one day and find a senior level position paying a multi-million dollar salary the next. It doesn’t happen that way. It takes months for something like that to come together.
From a New York Post article published on Sunday, it seems that the NFL has been pursuing Jones for quite some time. The NFL needed an investigative counsel to show the world that they are serious about cleaning up the league. Who better than a former Marine who had served as US Attorney in two different administrations and who was now running the agency that dealt with firearms given the problems that many of their players seem to have with guns. The fact that Jones is African-American and that approximately 68% of the league’s players are also African-American added to his allure for them.
“Jones is going to be in charge of the NFL’s personal-conduct policy,” the source said.
His work will involve “determining the length of suspensions and handing out fines,” the source said, adding that the job will pay “several million a year.”
“The NFL courted Jones for a while. They went after him, and recently things started heating up. The deal came very fast,” the source said.
The article in the New York Post goes on to say that the BATFE job was “wearing” on Jones. I’m sure it was as he had never managed anything larger than a US Attorney’s Office. As the US Attorney for Minnesota, all he had to deal with was the local media and his friends in the Department of Justice. He wasn’t being subjected to intense scrutiny by the national media nor was he being hauled up to Capitol Hill on a regular basis. Moreover, Eric Holder wasn’t going to have his back anymore given his announced departure.
Jones was an ineffectual leader at BATFE. He didn’t clean up the Project Gunwalker mess left behind by Kenneth Melson. The heads of the Phoenix-based operation, William Newell and George Gillett, are still at BATFE. William McMahon was allowed to double-dip before he left for a security job in the private sector. And that is just the tip of the problematic iceberg that was the BATFE run by Jones. Given all of that, is it any wonder that he is taking the money and running?