President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), David Chipman, has become embroiled in yet another controversy. The Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is digging for answers. Chipman’s Democratic defenders, though, are suspiciously quiet. He’s a forgotten man hung out to dry like Sunday’s laundry.
If Chipman’s confirmation wasn’t already on rocky ground, new revelations did the gun control lobbyist no favors. It may be only a matter of time before Chipman’s nomination is withdrawn, as U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Angus King (I-Maine) have suggested.
One thing’s certain – the more time that passes with no movement from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Chipman’s confirmation floor vote, the less likely he’ll win confirmation. The clock’s ticking.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and Majority Whip, the chief senate Democrat vote counter, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) painted a bleak picture for Chipman’s confirmation when he let slide the ATF nominee had “a lot of issues.” At that time, those “issues” included a troubling nomination hearing in which he couldn’t define what an “assault weapon” was even though he wanted them banned, his past work as a paid gun control lobbyist and his many statements demonstrating his contempt for first-time gun owners. In politics, a couple weeks is a lifetime and Chipman’s getting old.
The Reload then brought to light corroborated reports that while an ATF agent, Chipman made racially disparaging remarks about his African-American colleagues. One current ATF agent stated, “He made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list. So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable.”
Another agent said the racist remarks led to Chipman’s reassignment from the Detroit ATF office. “He left Detroit because of that,” the agent told The Reload. That reporting led to the 11 Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), signing a letter demanding a follow-up hearing. Sen. Durbin refused.
In follow up reporting, an African-American ATF agent with more than 25 years’ experience says he himself was the target of Chipman’s racism. “I believe it had to have been a bias,” the agent said. “My answers were just ‘too good.’ And my thought is he just said, ‘this black guy could not have answered this well if he wasn’t cheating.’”
It has also come to light that Chipman failed to disclose both his appearance on a state-run Communist Chinese propaganda television show praising gun control and several prior speaking events where he discussed the politics of fellow agents at the ATF. The Senate wrapped up work earlier this week before departing Washington, D.C., for the August and September recess. They still didn’t vote on Chipman’s nomination and that’s not a good sign. His prospects have dimmed even further.
Gun Control Hubris
The nomination of David Chipman to lead the ATF fits President Joe Biden’s modus operandi. The president’s claims of being a “unifier” and bringing back “bipartisanship” flew out the window as he ran on a campaign to dismantle the firearm industry. He deemed it “the enemy.”
Nominating Chipman to lead the agency charged with implementing and enforcing gun laws was the president’s opening shot to use the ATF as a cudgel to destroy the firearm industry. Reporting by The Federalist ranks Chipman as the second-most radical presidential nominee of President Biden’s tenure, noting, “Chipman’s scorn for gun-owning Americans runs deep,” among other things.
Gun control groups have noticed the Chipman stall-out and are growing antsy. Politico reported gun control activists are “going public with their long-simmering private frustrations, saying President Joe Biden could have done more.”
Far-right NRA front group Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine has heavily lobbied @SenAngusKing and others
to block @davidchipman‘s confirmation. It is not Chipman they seek to block. They intend to block a permanent ATF Director. We cannot let that happen.#ConfirmChipman https://t.co/8c8VkwqUav
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) August 6, 2021
Fred Guttenberg, the outspoken gun control activist whose daughter Jaime was murdered during the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in Parkland, Fla., has grown agitated. “The confirmation of David Chipman to be the ATF director … matters as much as everything else that they are working on…” Guttenberg has his own problems with the truth about the ATF.
While President Biden and Senate Democrats come to terms that their man is damaged, the firearm industry is keeping up the pressure. Americans are acting too, buying firearms in record numbers in 2020 and are keeping pace this year as well.
Public polling shows Americans aren’t interested in Chipman leading the ATF and they aren’t interested in more gun control. If the president and Senate Democrats refuse to listen, voters may make it clear they aren’t interested in returning them to office either.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.