David Chipman, gun ban advocate and would-be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, testified before a Senate committee today as part of his confirmation process, and his statements demonstrated exactly the kind of anti-gun attitude the gun-rights community fears.
Chipman currently serves as a senior policy advisor for the gun-control group Giffords, and his history of anti-gun statements have earned the ire of the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Gun Owners of America, along with most Republican senators.
During the course of the three-hour confirmation hearing, Chipman was by turns praised by Democrats and grilled by Republicans, who asked the nominee about his stance on the Second Amendment and his support of a ban on AR-type rifles, among other things.
“The AR-15 is one of, if not the, most popular rifles in America,” Sen. Ted Cruz asked. “Your public position is you want to ban AR-15s, is that correct?”
“With respect to the AR-15, I support a ban as has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president,” Chipman responded. “The AR-15 is a gun I was issued on ATF’s SWAT team and it is a particularly lethal weapon, and regulating it as other particularly lethal weapons I have advocated for.”
As GunsAmerica has reported previously, Chipman said during a 2019 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee that it is “simply unacceptable that military-style and high-power weapons are so readily available to citizens today and contribute to the loss of lives.”
AR- and AK-pistols “weren’t used in war” but were “developed to kill people here domestically,” he continued. “I don’t know any common gun owners who look to that as a great self-defense weapon, but they fire rounds that leave devastating wounds.”
Sen. Josh Hawley pointed out that Chipman has worked for a variety of gun-control groups, and this previous work indicates a “clear policy bias.”
“How can America’s hundreds of millions of law-abiding gun owners have confidence that you won’t try to restrict their Second Amendment rights? What assurances can you give them that you will limit your efforts to criminals who misuse weapons?” Hawley asked.
In response, Chipman fell back on a line he used repeatedly throughout the hearing: “I’ll enforce the laws on the books.”
In just the past 24 months, however, the ATF has worked to both write and enforce the laws by unilaterally changing regulations governing “ghost guns,” arm braces, and bump stocks. The ATF has never been shy about attempting to “clarify” federal gun-control laws by reversing their previously held interpretations.
Gun-rights groups are sounding the alarm. GOA’s Director of Federal Affairs, Aidan Johnston, pointed out on Twitter that Chipman’s answer to Sen. John Cornyn’s question shows his contempt for law-abiding gun owners.
Sen. @JohnCornyn asked “is a law abiding gun owner a threat to public safety?”@davidchipman‘s first response was to point out that law abiding gun owners can “go on to commit violent crime[s]”— Aidan Johnston (@RealGunLobbyist) May 26, 2021
That’s the lens through which this @ATFHQ Director Nominee views @gunowners pic.twitter.com/Kabyjxi2XJ
The National Rifle Association tweeted Chipman’s worst comments throughout the hearing, and they highlighted Sen. Chuck Grassley’s statement about Chipman’s clear anti-gun bias.
“Many see putting a committed gun control proponent, like David Chipman, in charge of ATF… is like putting Antifa in charge of the Portland police department.” –Sen. @ChuckGrassley #OpposeChipman pic.twitter.com/FTW2mcW6Gq— NRA (@NRA) May 26, 2021
Gun-control groups are over the moon to have one of their own in charge of the nation’s top firearm law enforcement agency.
Everytown and Moms Demand Action put out a press release reiterating their support for Chipman and, strangely, connecting his confirmation hearing to a recent mass murder in California.
“The fact that David Chipman’s nomination hearing was occurring just as we’re learning about the mass shooting in San Jose shows how critical it is that we act on gun safety,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “It has never been more urgent for the ATF to have a permanent leader, and the Senate should move quickly to confirm David Chipman. He’s dedicated his entire career serving the public, combating violent crime, and working to make our communities safer, and is the right person to lead the ATF at a time of rising gun injuries and deaths.”
The Democrats are working with a razor-thin majority to confirm Chipman, who recently made his Twitter account private in anticipation of his confirmation hearing. With the Senate split 50-50, they cannot afford to lose any Democratic votes if they want Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tiebreaker. That assumes, of course, that all Republicans hold firm, which is anything but certain.