Biden's Anti-Gun ATF Nominee Could Get Confirmation Hearing Next Week

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

It’s been more than a month since Joe Biden announced that he was nominating former ATF agent and current gun control activist David Chipman to head up the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, but there hasn’t been much movement towards his confirmation in the weeks since. That could change, however, with the Senate Judiciary Committee set to hold a confirmation hearing next Wednesday.

While the list of nominees for the hearing on the May 26th hasn’t yet been released, the New York Times recently reported that Chipman’s hearing was expected to take place “in late May,” so the date certainly fits. If Chipman does end up appearing before the committee, it’s likely that he’ll be sandwiched between several other nominees, but the spotlight will still be shining most brightly on the anti-gun activist.

My guess is that the eleven Democrats on the committee will focus most of their attention on Chipman’s 20+ years as an ATF agent, parroting the talking points we saw earlier this week when a number of Democratic AGs penned an open letter to Senate leadership endorsing Chipman’s nomination.

“As the chief law and law enforcement officers in our respective states and territories, many of us regularly work with ATF to combat violent criminals and gun trafficking in our communities,” the attorneys general wrote.

Expect lots of talk about “reasonable restrictions” and “commonsense gun regulations” from Democrats on the committee. We may even hear a few “I support the Second Amendment, but…” statements coming from anti-gun senators like Dick Durbin, Cory Booker, and Jon Ossoff.
Republicans, meanwhile, will probably spend most of their time grilling Chipman about his work with Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and the gun control group Giffords, where Chipman’s been employed as a senior policy analyst and lobbyist for the past five years. The GOP senators will have a lot to work with, given Chipman’s embrace of many extreme proposals. Take Chipman’s comments before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Protecting America from Assault Weapons” in 2019, for example.
“Assault weapons are a class of semi-automatic firearms originally intended for military use designed to kill people quickly and efficiently,” he claimed in his testimony, ignoring the fact that the AR-15 has been available for commercial sale since in 1964 and are only used in a small number of violent crimes each year. As the FBI Uniform Crime Reports document, more people are murdered each and every year with fists and feet than by a rifle of any kind, but Chipman’s testimony before the House committee a couple of years ago portrayed the most commonly-sold rifle in America as a tool that’s uniquely and inherently dangerous.
In that 2019 testimony, Chipman also complained about the “limitations” of the 1994 ban on so-called assault weapons, noting that while the law prevented the manufacture of new modern sporting rifles that fit the definition of “assault weapon” that Congress came up with, it didn’t require existing owners to turn them over to the government.
“Since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, the gun industry has continued to design and sell more dangerous weapons. For instance, during the 1990s assault pistols like the Tec-9, fired 9mm handgun rounds. Modern AR and AK pistols like the one used in Dayton and earlier this year to kill a Milwaukee police officer, fire rifle rounds. We currently don’t have an estimate of how many assault weapons are in circulation, but estimates are in the tens of millions.”
Chipman has stated that he believes those tens of millions of semi-automatic rifles should be reclassified as machine guns, which would require registration with the government and the payment of a $200 tax stamp for every legally purchased and possessed firearm, with the potential of a 10-year federal prison sentence for those who simply kept their guns without registering them under the National Firearms Act. As Chipman told The Hill in 2018:

“What I support is treating them just like machine guns,” Chipman, who is now a senior policy adviser at Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on “Rising.”

“To me, if you want to have a weapon of war, the same gun that was issued to me as a member of [the] ATF SWAT team, it makes sense that you would have to pass a background check, the gun would have to be in your name, and there would be a picture and fingerprints on file,” he continued.

“To me, I don’t mind doing it if I want to buy a gun. These policies just protect the criminal. Like, I don’t think you should be able to anonymously purchase 20 AR-15s at one time, and the government shouldn’t know,” he said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all that you have to pass a background check to own a weapon of war.”

I don’t expect it will make much of a difference to the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but I hope that at least one GOP Senator brings up the fact that Chipman is calling for the creation of new federal policies that would criminalize tens of millions of Americans, and the enforcement of those policies would undoubtably lead to Democrat bugaboos like “overpolicing” and “mass incarceration,” with the impacts being falling disproportionately on young Black and Brown men. There’s a heavy price to pay for trying to turn one of most common firearms in the country into a prohibited item, and if Democrats are honest with themselves, there are plenty of reasons why they too should oppose Joe Biden’s choice to head up the ATF.