Temporary directors have led the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) since 2015. The gun lobbyists on both sides made sure nominees did not become official ATF heads, and David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s choice, may not win Senate approval either. His nomination announcement was made on Wednesday evening, according to NPR on April 8, and was received by Congress on April 14, 2021.
The White House also stated the Justice Department would pursue new ordinances against stabilizing braces and “ghost guns.” Patrick J. Kiger explains:
Such weapons are assembled by individuals from parts or kits or that include one unfinished piece — typically the frame or receiver — that requires the purchaser to do some drilling to make the gun fully functional.
Rather than ghost guns, Biden’s ATF nominee says he prefers calling them “privately made firearms.”
Who Is David Chipman?
If confirmed, Chipman would return to the ATF, where he worked as a special agent for 25 years. During his time as an agent, he disrupted gun trafficking enterprises in Virginia that were supplying illegal guns to New York City, served as a member of the ATF Special Response Team (SRT), and was the Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Firearms Programs.
Chipman, at Detriot native, is a senior policy adviser for former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ Courage to Fight Gun Violence. She became a gun control advocate after being shot in 2011. Giffords says he is the perfect choice to be the ATF Director.
Giffords says the agency needs a strong, experienced leader like Chipman. “As a former ATF agent, from day one, David will be able to address the most pressing issues facing the bureau, including reducing gun violence in this country.”
Paul LeBlanc reporting for CNN, writes the nominee holds an undergraduate degree from American University and a master’s in management from Johns Hopkins University.
Chipman states he is a specialist in three fields from his LinkedIn profile: violent crime reduction, interagency liaison, and certified explosive. He notes his expertise in law enforcement and assault weapons, the gun industry, and ghost guns on Giffords.
ATF Nominee’s Gun Control Advocacy
Chipman became a senior adviser at Everytown for Gun Safety after leaving the ATF in 2012. His Linkedin profile states in that capacity, he was consulted by lawmakers considering gun legislation frequently.
Before taking Giffords’ position in 2016, he spent three years serving as senior vice president of Public Safety Solutions.
LeBlanc explained it is in these roles that the nominee’s gun control advocacy was elevated.
He made media appearances and wrote op-eds; frequently.
In a 2013 piece published on Politico, he wrote that he knows “all too well how serious our gun violence problem is and how desperately the [ATF] lacks for the law enforcement tools that are necessary to help curb this national epidemic.”
He wrote about the country’s gun safety laws. Chipman said the laws make it too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands. He complained that since Congress failed to deal with the problem legislatively, that the ATF needs to step in and demonstrate strong leadership surrounding the issue.
In a 2019 interview with PBS NewsHour, he talked about gun magazines. “A 100-round magazine is just not traditional. It’s not normal. And I can’t think of a purpose beyond killing a lot of people.” He believes a 10-round magazine is enough but says there is room for progress.
During a conversation with Chipman, he told CNN that the significant uptick in United States background checks during the COVID-19 pandemic should raise flags requiring attention. Why did so many people feel the need to buy guns this past summer? The ATF nominee added:
My biggest concern involves the potential number of first-time gun buyers who, before March, did not think they needed a gun.
ATF Nominee’s Critics May Block Director Appointment
Chipman’s critics have powerful allies in Congress that could block his appointment as the ATF director. Moreover, his nomination has Senate Republicans on edge as they believe Democratic gun control measures will end American citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
GOP legislators frequently make this complaint — vocally and visually using photos featuring themselves and their gun collections. In a recent visit with FOX host Chris Wallace, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham talked about the most recent Democrat-based gun control legislation.
He said there is nothing wrong with debating the issue. Conversely, Graham states the legislation will not pass: “It would not only fail; the Democrats would not get 50 votes and certainly not the 60 needed for the bill to pass.” He added that he owns an AR-15 that he plans to use for home protection should the need arise.
One of the largest gun lobbyists, the National Rifle Association, publically denounced Chipman’s ATF nomination because he is an extremist. The NRA points to the nominee’s comments in October 2018, favoring regulating AR-15s the same as machine guns are under the National Firearms Act, which requires owners to register their weapons.
Chipman added, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all that you have to pass a background check to own a weapon of war.”
But the registry has a one-year backlog, states the NRA. “It’s hard to imagine choosing a nominee who is more hostile to the rights of American gun owners than Chipman.”
Republican senators are anxious to thwart the nominee’s approval. Josh Hawley (R- Mo.) is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He calls Chipman’s nomination radical. He cannot imagine himself supporting an anti-firearms activist.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.), also on the Judiciary, tweeted the ATF nominee is a “gun-grabber” who believes in “wild conspiracy.” Other Republican Judiciary committee members, such as Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, added they had not researched Chipman deeply. Nonetheless, they expressed deep concern about what they had read thus far.
Republican senators will most likely nix the ATF nominee, but since Chipman’s confirmation only requires a majority vote, Democrats are confident that Vice President Kamala Harris will break the 50-50 tie. However, their constituents are gun owners who do not want to lose their Second Amendment rights.
The ATF confirmation hearing is not yet on the Senate calendar, although, Chipman’s name does appear in the list of Biden administration nominees list.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CNN: Biden’s planned pick for ATF director a fierce advocate for gun control; by Paul LeBlanc
NPR: Biden To Nominate Gun Control Advocate, Law Enforcement Veteran To Lead ATF; by Chloee Weiner
HowStuffWorks: What Are Ghost Guns and Why Are They So Dangerous? By Patrick J. Kiger.
Giffords: David Chipman Bio
Courthouse News: Biden ATF Pick Faces Pushback From Gun Rights Activists; by Kaila Philo
Daily Beast: Biden’s Pro-Gun Control ATF Pick Has Republicans Up in Arms; by Sam Broady
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