Gun groups will need to sway at least one Democrat in the 50-50 Senate to defeat Chipman’s nomination. NSSF is trying to dissuade Democratic senators from supporting Chipman by making the case that his confirmation would lead to the politicization of ATF.
“It would set a very bad precedent for ATF as an organization, because I think it would be highly likely that a Republican administration would then nominate somebody for the position from the [gun] industry or the National Rifle Association,” Keane said. “Democrats would be screaming from the mountaintops if that happened, and they would be justified.”
NSSF frequently sues ATF to undo its gun regulations. But the industry group is telling lawmakers it opposes Chipman, not the agency itself, which it partners with on gun safety measures.
The group hasn’t opposed any other nominees for ATF director since the post became a Senate-confirmed position, and it supported former President Obama’s ATF nominee, B. Todd Jones, who was confirmed in 2013.
“That really caught people’s attention,” Keane said. “Senate offices said they weren’t aware of that fact and were thankful to know it. We cannot be cast as being reflexively opposed to whoever is nominated.”
NSSF held a virtual fly-in last month, connecting its members with senators from both parties, including Manchin and Murkowski.
The NRA has been taking a different approach, with a multi-million dollar ad campaign in senators’ home states over the past two months. The group said it will spend another $500,000 in the coming week on ads, mailers and in-person town halls to keep the pressure on moderate senators.
“Biden nominated radical gun control lobbyist David Chipman to lead ATF, but Sen. Joe Manchin can stop him,” a West Virginia NRA ad says. “Contact Joe Manchin’s office today and tell Joe to vote against Chipman’s nomination and reject President Biden’s extreme gun control agenda.”
— Karl Evers-Hillstrom in Pro-gun groups step up lobbying campaign against Biden ATF pick