Susan Collins Says She's A "No" On Biden's ATF Nominee

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

We don’t know when the Senate will hold its confirmation vote on David Chipman,  but we now know that the former ATF agent turned gun control activist won’t be getting the support of Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who was seen as one of the most likely members of the GOP to back Biden’s pick.


On Monday, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine released a statement by Collins announcing that the senator is troubled by Chipman’s “divisive” background and his “statements that demean law-abiding gun owners.”

“I am concerned that his confirmation would do significant damage to the collaborative working relationship that must exist between ATF, the firearms industry, sportsmen and women, and other law-abiding gun owners exercising their Second Amendment rights,” Collins said.

Well, she’s not wrong to be concerned. Chipman’s outright hostility towards the firearms industry and the Second Amendment rights of American citizens has been on display for years; from his mocking of new gun owners last year to his embrace of Joe Biden’s plan to outlaw the most popular rifle in the country. As the National Shooting Sports Foundation outlined in announcing their own opposition to Chipman’s nomination:

Chipman is wholly unqualified to lead the men and women of the ATF. He surrendered any notion of being able to execute the duties the office requires when he became a lobbyist for Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and later for Giffords gun control group, along with his position as senior policy advisor at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Among the bills he lobbied Congress were universal background checks, handgun licensing and registration, banning modern sporting rifles (MSRs), instituting age-based gun bans and to establish a national firearm transfer delay period.

That’s an unacceptable starting point for any nominee for this position. It’s putting the fox in charge of watching the hen house. The inverse would be if President Donald Trump had nominated Wayne LaPierre to take the job during his administration. The mainstream media and gun control camp would have howled, and not without cause. That’s why NSSF won’t passively simply oppose this nomination. NSSF is adamantly opposed. It will treat this nomination, and any senators who vote in favor of it, as the threat to the firearm industry and Americans’ ability to exercise their fundamental Second Amendment rights that it is.


Chipman only needs 51 votes to be confirmed by the Senate, so Collins’ opposition isn’t a dealbreaker, but it does highlight just how divisive Biden’s nominee really is. If Chipman’s disdain for gun owners and his years of activism with gun control groups like Everytown and Giffords has made it impossible for Collins to support him, it’s hard to see how Biden’s nominee gets the support of other moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney.

So, as is the case with most Senate business these days, Chipman’s confirmation really hinges on West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who has yet to publicly state whether or not he supports Chipman’s nomination. However, as we’ve previously discussed, there is a scenario where Manchin could vote “no” and still see Chipman confirmed, and it involves Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomney, who’s Manchin’s buddy on background checks.

Toomey has already announced he’s not running for re-election next year, so he could decide that comity and bipartisanship is more important than keeping a gun grabber like Chipman out of the top job at the ATF without worrying about what Pennsylvania voters think.

What’s more, Toomey has been trying without success for several years now to get a bill to expand background checks through the Senate, and his chief partner in that effort is none other than Joe Manchin.

Manchin represents one of the most 2A-supportive states in the nation, and he has shown no signs that he plans on stepping down when his current term expires in 2024. I don’t think Manchin wants to do anything that will allow his Republican challenger to portray him as a tool of the gun control lobby, but what if he could find a way to vote against Chipman and not be the deciding vote on the nomination?

If Joe Manchin went to his old pal Pat Toomey and suggested that Toomey vote yes on Chipman so that Manchin could vote no and still have Chipman confirmed, would Toomey do it? My fear is that that Toomey would be happy to support his buddy and provide him with some political cover on the Chipman vote.


Like Manchin himself, Toomey’s been silent on Chipman’s nomination up to this point, but I know that gun owners in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have been sounding off to the senators’ offices about the idea of putting a committed gun control activist in charge of the ATF. Let’s hope the pair are listening, and until they say something publicly, Second Amendment supporters in the two states should keep up the pressure and keep making their opposition to Chipman clear.

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