Can Biden's ATF Nominee Be Defeated?

Earlier today, Tom Knighton gave a preview of what to expect when Joe Biden’s nominee to head up the ATF sits down for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re delving a little deeper into tomorrow’s hearing with Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb, along with an exploration into the new proposed rule released by the ATF that attempts to impose sweeping and vague definitions of “frame” and “receiver” in the Gun Control Act.


Gottlieb isn’t quite as optimistic as my colleague about the chances to defeat David Chipman’s nomination to serve as permanent director of the ATF, despite the fact that Chipman’s spent much of the last decade drawing paychecks from gun control groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Giffords. As Gottlieb points out, there’s a lot of back room arm-twisting and dealmaking that can take place between the White House and senators to get Chipman to 51 votes, and in order to prevent Chipman’s confirmation not only do all 50 Republican senators need to oppose him, but at least one Democrat is going to have to cross over as well.

Joe Manchin would appear to be the most likely Democrat to object to a gun control activist in charge of the ATF, but so far the West Virginia senator hasn’t expressed any public opposition to the nomination. He did, however, end up opposing Neera Tanden, who was Biden’s choice to run the Office of Management and Budget, over derogatory tweets targeting both Republicans and Democrats, and West Virginia gun owners are hopefully contacting the senator’s office to remind him that Chipman’s hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms is far worse than Tanden’s disrespectful social media posts. Still, it’s not a good sign that Manchin has been silent about Chipman, though he could be waiting until the Senate Judiciary Committee concludes its hearing and sends the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote.


Meanwhile, 20 Republican Attorneys General are speaking out in advance of Chipman’s hearing, penning a letter to Senate leadership urging them to reject Biden’s nominee. Unlike a similar letter sent by 17 Democratic AGs that largely ignored Chipman’s years as a paid gun control activist in favor of his time as an ATF agent, the Republican AGs, headed up by Montana Attorney General Austen Knudson, blast Chipman for his anti-gun ideology.

Mr. Chipman has a long history with organizations whose mission is to erase the Second Amendment. He has spent the last five years as a senior policy advisor for the Giffords Law Center. This radical group attempted to defend Washington, D.C.’s complete ban on the possession of handguns in the home at the U.S. Supreme Court. This organization argued that “nothing in the Second Amendment restrains the authority of States or their political subdivisions” when enacting firearm regulations. This extreme position would allow politicians to run roughshod over the rights of their citizens. Fortunately, it did not prevail.

His direct advocacy has targeted mainstream gun owners. The AR-15 is one of, if not the most, popular rifles in America to the point news reports have called it “America’s rifle.” More and more Americans are seeing the utility and value of the AR-15 – demonstrating that yet again Mr. Chipman is out of touch with the mainstream. In 2019 Congressional testimony, Mr. Chipman said he wants to ban the manufacturing and future sale of AR-15s. In his dream scenario, the millions of lawabiding Americans who already own these popular rifles would need to pay a $200 tax, subject themselves to fingerprinting and another federal background check, and have that information stored in a federal registration system.

It is indisputable that an extremely small percentage of gun crimes are committed with AR-15s – a fact that should be well known to a former ATF agent. Given Mr. Chipman’s radical views and disdain for the facts, it is not a stretch to wonder if he wants owners of any type of firearm placed in a government registry. More people are murdered with sharp objects than with any type of rifle. Does he believe letter openers should also be taxed and registered?


Gottlieb says that the firearms industry and gun owners should be deeply concerned about Chipman weaponizing the government agency against our right to keep and bear arms if he’s confirmed, and we’re getting a small taste of what could be in store with the ATF’s new proposed rule on frames and receivers. The SAF head describes the new rules as so vague they’re scary, and he says that the organization is already weighing its options for litigation if the proposal rule ends up taking effect once the public comment period closes in a few months.

Until then, however, Gottlieb is urging gun owners to submit their own comments in opposition to proposed rule, as well as another rule regulating pistol braces and AR-style pistols that’s expected to be released by the Department of Justice and the ATF a couple of weeks from now. Any legal action challenging the new rule won’t happen until the rule has officially been adopted by the agency, and that won’t happen for another three months or so at the earliest.

Be sure to check out the entire conversation with Alan Gottlieb above, which does end on a more optimistic note as we get his reaction to Texas lawmakers approving both Constitutional Carry and Second Amendment Sanctuary bills. The Biden administration is making their hostility towards our right to keep and bear arms clear, but gun owners and Second Amendment supporters are sending an even louder message to Washington, D.C. in support of our Second Amendment rights, and we will not be silenced (or disarmed) no matter how hard Biden and his anti-gun allies try to make it happen.


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