After Chipman Disaster, What's Left For Biden's Anti-Gun Agenda?

With the White House pulling David Chipman’s nomination as permanent director of the ATF, what’s the next step for Joe Biden when it comes to his efforts to restrict the Second Amendment rights of American citizens? We’re tackling that question and more on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co with The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski, whose reporting on Chipman’s alleged racist remarks as an ATF agent helped to sink the gun control activist’s prospects of getting confirmed by the Senate.

Gutowski and I are both in agreement that the administration is going to continue to pursue its anti-gun agenda by doubling down on its strategy of using executive actions and administrative rule changes to enact new restrictions while bypassing Congress. As Gutowski points out, there are plenty of Democrats who’ll likely be on board with that tactic, since it likely absolves them of having to cast any more votes in favor of gun control ahead of the 2022 midterms. The Senate is deadlocked 50/50, so the chances of any anti-gun legislation getting to Biden’s desk is close to zero anyway, and with Chipman likely to be placed in the White House in an advisory role, the administration can still move forward with its plans to go after home-built firearms, pistols with stabilizing braces, and perhaps even modern sporting rifles through the regulatory powers of the ATF instead of a vote in Congress.

Gun control groups, meanwhile, have already demonstrated that they plan on using the judiciary as much as possible, not only to go after pro-2A legislation, but to try to litigate the firearms industry into bankruptcy or compliance with the demands of groups like Giffords, Brady, and Everytown. The demise of David Chipman’s nomination won’t change that fact, but I also expect that the anti-gun outfits will be elevating the profile of the firearms industry and guys like Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation as they try to portray gunmakers as the new bogeyman of the “gunsense” movement.

In fact Giffords has already started, with former Kimber executive-turned gun control activist Ryan Busse’s response to Chipman’s defeat.

“I worked in the gun industry for 25 years and saw it marginalize millions of responsible gun owners and opt for empowering increasingly dangerous extremists. An industry that once proudly embraced commonsense policies like universal background checks now chooses to fuel those who demand Second Amendment absolutism. Arming and inciting these people who wish to upend our country may be good for gun sales, but it’s terrible for American democracy. Gun owners like me know that enforcing our nation’s gun laws is good for all citizens, and that requires strong and competent ATF leadership. We know that opposing the nomination of a respected 25-year ATF veteran is not about facts. Rather, it is a continuation of the frightening radicalization at the center of our national political morass. ”

The denial is truly breathtaking. Busse won’t even acknowledge that, like himself, Chipman is a senior policy advisor to Giffords. It wasn’t the 25 years at ATF that scuttled Chipman’s nomination. It was his years working for groups like Giffords that ultimately spiked his chances of confirmation, but the gun control lobby will never admit that anymore than the mainstream media focused on the damaging revelations about Chipman’s interactions with Black ATF agents during his time with the bureau.

Busse and Giffords are also afraid to bring up the fact that they didn’t want Chipman installed in order to “enforce our nation’s gun laws.” They wanted him at ATF so they could impose new restrictions on American gun owners, and do an end run around Congress if need be.

So what happens next? Will Biden nominate someone else as permanent director, or let acting director Marvin Richardson remain in place? According to Gutowski, Sen. Angus King has floated the idea of making Richardson the permanent director, but I would be surprised if the administration moves quickly to formally replace Chipman’s nomination with another candidate. After Neera Tanden’s nomination as director of the Office of Management and Budget was pulled back in March, Biden chose to name Shalanda Young as acting director instead of opting for another bruising confirmation fight, and my suspicion is that Biden will do the same with the ATF. If Biden does decide to give it another go, however, it will likely come before next year’s elections. At the moment, the prospects of the Democrats picking up another seat or two look iffy at best, and if Republicans do take back the Senate next November there’s virtually no chance that a Biden nominee would get confirmed. If Biden and his anti-gun allies want to see someone installed as a permanent director of the ATF, they’re going to have to move sooner rather than later, and there’s no guarantee that their second choice will fair any better than the gun control golden boy who couldn’t get 50 votes.