President Barack Obama signs a series of executive orders about the administration's new gun law proposals as children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence on January 16, 2012. - 

On Wednesday, President Obama signed 23 executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence, and called on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons, and limit high-capacity magazines. He also announced he plans to nominate Todd Jones to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Right now, Jones is a U.S. attorney and the interim director of the agency. The ATF has not had a permanent director for a while nearly six years.

According to Robert Spitzer, who teaches political science at SUNY-Cortland, and has written four books on gun control, the agency has been handicapped.

"Agencies have directors for reasons," he says. "They provide overall organization. They speak for the agency. They organize the activities of the agency."

One of the ATF's responsibilities is to regulate the gun industry, including dealers.

"About 40 percent of illegal guns are traced back to federally licensed dealers," says Adam Winkler, the author of "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America," noting that is evidence the agency could be doing more.

If there is a hearing for Jones, it's likely lawmakers will spend a lot of time asking questions about a federal sting operation gone wrong called "Fast and Furious," which has sullied the ATF's reputation.

Follow David Gura at @davidgura