Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee split along party lines when voting whether to advance the nomination of David Chipman as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The vote underscored the hyper-partisan nature of Biden’s choice to lead the agency that enforces federal gun control laws and regulates the nation’s network of licensed firearms manufacturers, dealers, and importers (FFLs).
Biden likes to stress Chipman’s career as an ATF agent, but it is the nominee’s more recent gun control advocacy that makes him Biden’s ideal choice to lead the recently characterized “crackdown” on federal firearm licensees.
Chipman has served as a paid policy advisor for Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and currently works for Giffords, which lobbies Congress and state legislatures for an ever-expanding list of firearm prohibition measures.
The nominee acknowledged at his confirmation hearing that he supports the banning of so-called “assault weapons,” but when asked to define that term, he repeatedly tried to duck the question. He has insisted, however, that the wildly popular AR-15 should be prohibited.
Pro-gun Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) characterized Chipman as a “zealot” who is inappropriate to lead an agency “whose mission is to even-handedly apply the law.” He noted he would vote against the nominee out of concern that Chipman would stretch the law to cover an “agenda” not authorized by Congress.
Anti-gun Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MI), meanwhile, blamed the NRA for the Senate’s hesitancy to move forward with confirming a permanent ATF director.
Indeed, only determined pressure by Second Amendment supporters can prevent ATF from falling into the hands of ideological lackeys like Chipman, who would use the agency’s authority to punish political enemies and suppress the rights of law-abiding gun owners, rather than to target violent criminals.
We have been happy to expose Chipman’s record to public scrutiny and will continue to hold him accountable for promoting views and policies well out of step with respect for the Second Amendment.
Much discussion has also surrounded ATF’s failure to turn over Chipman’s personnel records, which could shed critical light on allegations that he, among other things, lost his own duty firearm and made what have been characterized as racist statements about fellow agents.
Whether or not those reports are ultimately confirmed, any senator concerned about Second Amendment rights has ample reason to vote “no” on Chipman’s confirmation.
The tie vote will require Democrats to engage in additional maneuvering to advance Chipman’s nomination to a vote before the full Senate. There is no indication, however, that they are ready to back off the controversial and divisive nominee, with Biden again calling for this confirmation in remarks from the White House last week.