By Larry Keane
Six of President Joe Biden’s executive nominees testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to make their case for senate approval, but the lion’s share of questioning – and attention – focused on the president’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), David Chipman.
The focus was well-deserved as Chipman’s years of gun control advocacy and numerous insulting remarks about law-abiding gun owners, make him a troubling nominee. For many reasons, NSSF adamantly opposes Chipman’s nomination as someone who is entirely unqualified to hold a position of public trust, especially a public he insults and mocks.
During his opening statement, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Committee’s ranking Republican, cut to the chase. Of Chipman’s out-of-mainstream views on firearms, the senator deadpanned in typical fashion, “There isn’t a liberal hobby horse on guns he hasn’t ridden.”
Every pro-Second Amendment senator landed haymakerson Chipman regarding his problematic gun control positions. He offered ‘clarification’ of his previous statements often and it was a long three hours for the nominee.
Tell Us How You Really Feel
David Chipman’s resume is well known. Beyond his previous (and current) work as a gun control lobbyist and activist who supports banning the most popular-selling semi-automatic rifle in America, the modern sporting rifle (MSR), Chipman has a particular disdain for the more than 8.4 million Americans who purchased a firearm for the first time last year.
He mocked those individuals for making the decision to exercise their Second Amendment rights. According to Chipman, rather than having safety concerns, these gun buyers, “are more like Tiger King.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) addressed these troubling views, as the trend of first-time buyers has continued to grow in 2021. He confronted Chipman about his mockery in an interview where Chipman advised new gun owners to, “Hide their gun behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky they have stored in a cabinet and only bring that out if the zombies start to appear.”
“Senator, thank you for the opportunity to let me clarify,” Chipman began. In a long, winding answer he mostly blamed being taken out of context, but Sen. Lee wouldn’t let him off the hook.
Citing NSSF survey data the senator reminded Chipman first-time gun buyers in 2020 included a 58 percent rise in African-American purchasers, a 43 percent rise in Asian-Americans and a 40 percent bump in Hispanic-American buyers.
Remarking on his condescending views towards these first-time gun owners, Sen. Lee connected the dots.
It does concern me these statements that you say are taken out of context, or misunderstood, are not themselves out of context when you view them in the context of all the other statements you’ve made.
During the exchange with Sen. Lee, Chipman made a startling revelation about his practices of safe and secure firearm storage that’s quite surprising for a seasoned gun owner, long-serving law enforcement officer and the man wishing to lead the ATF.
“What I was trying to use was self-depreciating humor. The person who had a gun stored behind his tuna and beef jerky…was me,” Chipman said. Committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) must’ve cringed. He led a hearing just the day before that was focused solely on the federally-mandated firearm storage law he has introduced.
MSRs: In Search of a Definition
Chipman’s believes that modern sporting rifles (MSRs) – what he calls “assault weapons” – should be banned. He’s openly advocated for the enactment of that policy numerous times, and still does, as he reminded Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) during the hearing.
NSSF survey data reveals there are more than 20 million MSRs in private circulation today, and they’re lawfully purchased for reasons including hunting and predator management, self-defense and recreational shooting.
Several senators challenged Chipman to define the popular firearm. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) all landed blows proving the point that the terminology used by gun control schemers is faulty and meant more to scare people, rather than to specifically define a firearm based on technology or functionality.
But it was Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) who elicited the most telling reveal. Chipman began equivocating and the senator from the Sportsman’s Paradise cut him off. “I got thirty-five seconds left. Define it for me if you please, sir. What’s an assault weapon? You’re gonna run the agency and you can’t define it?”
Chipman caved, “There’s no way I could define an assault weapon.”
An Agency That Deserves Real Leadership
NSSF previously supported the nomination of Michael Sullivan in 2007, when the position first required Senate confirmation. NSSF also supported the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee, B. Todd Jones, who was confirmed by the Senate, as well as the nomination of Chuck Canterbury in 2017.
The ATF is responsible for carrying out laws passed by Congress regarding the regulation of lawful firearms. David Chipman’s record is one of gun control advocacy and contempt for millions of law-abiding gun owners.
There’s a good relationship between the ATF and NSSF and there are long-standing partnerships with common goals and success that prove this. David Chipman demonstrated in the flesh why he is unworthy of the public trust.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.