Gun control groups like Everytown and Giffords expected that with Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, they’d have their best opportunity in decades to put new gun laws in place. Instead, thanks to the filibuster in the Senate, it looks like their gun control legislation isn’t going anywhere at the moment.
That means that the executive branch is going to have to do the heavy lifting for the anti-gun activists, and installing one of their own as permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is now their top priority. David Chipman, who spent 25 years at the ATF and most of the past decade in the employ of groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords, is still awaiting a confirmation vote in the full Senate, and it looks like Democrats are still counting heads and twisting arms to get red-state Democrats to sign off on his nomination.
“As a proud gun owner, Sen. Tester believes ATF needs a strong leader to support the agency’s law enforcement mission,” Tester communications director Sarah Feldman told Fox News. “Sen. Tester will continue to review David Chipman’s record and testimony to ensure he would support our brave law enforcement officers and respect Montanans’ Second Amendment rights.”
Several other moderate Democrats from red or purple states haven’t taken public stances on the nomination and did not reply to inquiries from Fox News about where they stand on Chipman. This group includes Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Angus King, I-Maine.
Manchin was asked about Chipman’s nomination last month and acknowledged that “there’s a lot of controversy,” according to Politico. “I really am undecided,” he said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who represents the other major Republican swing vote after Collins, has not announced a position on Chipman’s nomination. Her support, or a vote from any other Republican, would be a big boost to Chipman’s chances. But even if Murkowski votes against him, at least one Democrat would need to as well in order to block Chipman’s confirmation. Otherwise, Vice President Harris will be able to break a tie in the 50-50 Senate.
From a political perspective, Biden would be better off pulling Chipman’s nomination and replacing him with someone who isn’t a tool of the gun control lobby. The president’s already underwater in public polling on his handling of both crime and gun control, and Chipman’s nomination is such a blatant sop to anti-gun activists that Republicans are going to rightfully use it as a cudgel to bash Democrats between now and the midterms if the gun control advocate is confirmed in a party-line vote.
Democrats also need the support (and cash) from the gun control lobby in next year’s midterms, so even though the smart move would be to replace Chipman with a true professional, don’t look for that to happen unless and until Chipman’s nomination is actually defeated. And in order for that to happen, at least one Democrat will have to vote “no”.
So far, the closest we’ve come to seeing a Democrat object to Chipman is Manchin’s statement that he’s “really undecided.” Maybe the recent revelation that Chipman is in favor of confiscating guns from people who use “hate speech” online will be enough to move Manchin from undecided to opposed, but I suspect that in order for that to happen, West Virginia gun owners are going to have to keep up the pressure on their senator. Chipman is the key to the gun control lobby’s plans over the next couple of years, and they’re not going to give up on their hand-picked candidate without a fight.