White House Gives Up On Chipman Nomination

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The nomination of gun control activist David Chipman as permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is officially over, with White House sources telling CNN that they’re pulling his name from consideration, though they add that Chipman is still likely to find a role in the administration.

The White House will withdraw the nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, three sources familiar with the decision told CNN.

The move comes amid concerns among moderate Democrats and independent Maine Sen. Angus King — along with GOP senators — over Chipman’s past record on gun control.

“We do not have the votes. We will land him in a non-confirmed job in the administration,” one senior administration official told CNN.

Chipman’s not going to be thrown completely under the bus, but he’s also not going to be in a position that wields as much authority and power as the director of the agency overseeing our nation’s gun laws and the firearms industry.

The Washington Post, which was first to break the story, is trying to spin Chipman’s defeat as “yet another example of the intractable politics of gun policy on Capitol Hill,” but the real issue with Chipman’s nomination was the fact that he was a committed gun control activist who’d expressed hostility towards both gun owners and the firearms industry that he would regulate as ATF director.

The ATF position is central to any administration’s strategy for tackling gun violence, but the agency has had just one Senate-confirmed leader since the post became subject to Senate confirmation 15 years ago.

Several Democratic senators had publicly and privately expressed concerns about Chipman, including Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), along with Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine.

Chipman’s advocates and administration officials were particularly concerned about King, who faced vigorous lobbying against the nominee from sportsmen’s groups in his home state.

A spokesman for King declined to comment Thursday morning on Chipman’s pending withdrawal.

You have to wonder if Chipman’s name wouldn’t have been pulled from consideration several weeks ago if not for Biden’s abject failures with the pullout of Afghanistan. Chipman’s nomination has been in trouble for weeks now, and there was no sign that Democrats like Manchin and Tester were moving towards confirming the anti-gun activist as ATF Director. More and more stories emerged about Chipman’s alleged racial bias towards black ATF agents, and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee had demanded a second hearing with Chipman in order to press him on some of the allegations that had emerged since his first brief appearance before the committee back in May.

At the same time, gun control activists were demanding that the White House and Biden himself do more to get Chipman confirmed.

In half a dozen interviews, those advocating for Chipman’s confirmation complained that Biden and his top aides have not leaned enough on Democratic senators to get them to support the confirmation.

“The White House has really dropped the ball here and if Chipman is not confirmed that will be a significant letdown to survivors of gun violence across the country — and will have the effect of undermining their effort to reduce gun homicides,” said Igor Volsky, executive director of the advocacy group Guns Down America. “Biden told us during the campaign trail that this is a priority and the administration insists that he is in charge of driving this issue. He needs to step on the accelerator.”

Instead, Biden’s hit the brakes. This is unquestionably good news for gun owners, though it won’t be the end of the gun control lobby’s attempts to use the administration’s executive branch authority to restrict the Second Amendment rights of Americans. Still, it’s a major defeat for the anti-gun activists who had big plans once one of their own was installed as head of the ATF, and a huge setback for Biden’s gun control agenda going forward.