If the votes to confirm David Chipman as permanent director of the ATF were assured, then Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would have scheduled a floor vote by now. As it is, Schumer’s not saying when that vote could take place, but based on the comments by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday, it’s pretty clear that Democrats recognize that Chipman hasn’t convinced moderate and red-state Dems like Joe Manchin to take the unprecedented step of putting a gun control activist in charge of the agency overseeing the firearms industry and the federal enforcement of gun laws.
The nomination of David Chipman has been stalled as Republicans and the National Rifle Association work to sink it. Chipman is a two-decade veteran of the ATF who served as an adviser to a major gun control group and would be the first formal leader since 2015.
“As you all know, ATF is on the front lines of our efforts to battle gun violence,” Garland said during a visit to the agency’s headquarters. “We are very hopeful that the Senate will soon act.”
It’s interesting that Garland used the word “hopeful” as opposed to something like “confident,” isn’t it?
The fact is that Joe Biden screwed up when he decided to gift the gun control lobby by placing one of their own in charge of the ATF. I’m sure groups like Everytown and Giffords told the administration that most voters wouldn’t really care about Chipman’s past and current endeavors to criminalize the right to keep and bear arms, and that his nomination would provide him with an opportunity to demonize the NRA and other 2A groups for their opposition. As the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Larry Keane reports, however, it appears that voters in many swing states are in fact closely watching what happens with Chipman’s nomination, and they’re prepared to vote accordingly.
NSSF conducted surveys in key states where some senators have yet to decide on Chipman and voters rejected his nomination. In Arizona, Maine, Montana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, over half the likely voters told pollsters they wouldn’t support Chipman as head of ATF. In West Virginia, that was over two-thirds of likely voters.
NSSF shared the results with senators from those states. NSSF then purchased television advertising for the first time in the trade association’s 60-year history to remind voters to contact their senators and let them know to vote “no” on Chipman. That’s had an effect.
Meanwhile, some House Republicans are hoping to keep the spotlight on Chipman’s record as a gun control activist by pushing for his impeachment before a confirmation vote has even been scheduled.
The effort, which is more political messaging than anything, is led by Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont. It comes as at least five moderate Democrats remain undecided on the controversial nominee with a history of working for major gun control groups, and as the timing for Chipman’s final confirmation remains unclear.
“The confirmation of David Chipman to the ATF would be a direct threat to the second amendment rights of Americans and the rule of law,” Rosendale said in a statement about his impeachment resolution. “Not only has Chipman previously given false testimony to Congress, but his statements on gun-control are evidence that his confirmation would be a failure to support and defend our constitutional rights. If appointed, both are impeachable offenses and worthy of Congress to consider his removal.”
As FOX notes, this effort isn’t actually going anywhere, but it does serve the purpose of keeping conservatives engaged on the issue of Chipman’s nomination, which hopefully leads to more voters contacting on-the-fence senators like Montana’s Jon Tester, Angus King of Maine, and West Virginia’s Manchin.
It’s far too premature to declare victory here, and Democrats may very well end up circling the wagon around Sleepy Joe and confirming his pick along purely partisan lines. Still, we’re still in the fight, and I suspect that at this moment, we’re actually gaining ground.