Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters are rightfully proud and pleased over Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw gun control activist David Chipman’s nomination as permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in the wake of their vocal and sustained opposition, but the National Shooting Sports Foundation is warning gun rights activists not to get complacent in the aftermath. After all, as NSSF general counsel and senior vice president Larry Keane writes at Ammoland, with more than three years left in Biden’s term, “it’s important to remember what the Biden administration has already put into motion, what they vowed to do, and what gun control is demanding.”
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki didn’t offer a timeframe but told reporters the Biden administration isn’t planning on leaving the ATF director’s position in the hands of an acting director. “We certainly would at an appropriate time,” Psaki said. There will be another nominee, it’s just unknown who or when.
Politico reported that The White House’s Domestic Policy Council and Office of Public Engagement were calling gun control allies to break the news of Chipman’s nomination withdrawal and was uncommitted to naming a new nominee. The report said Biden administration officials never worked on a Plan B, assuming they wouldn’t face opposition from Democratic senators, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats. It was ultimately Sen. King who wasn’t swayed by The White House, sinking Chipman’s nomination.
NSSF agrees the bureau needs a confirmed director and NSSF has supported ATF director nominations in the past, including President George W. Bush’s nominee Michael Sullivan, President Barack Obama’s ATF Director B. Todd Jones, and President Donald Trump’s nominee Chuck Canterbury. NSSF wants to see a director who will service the ATF’s mission faithfully of administrating federal firearm regulations and proper oversight of the firearm industry. Chipman wasn’t that person. He would have been gun control’s inside man.
I suspect we will see another nominee put forward by the Biden administration, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the short term. It’s also interesting to see Keane acknowledge that the industry was okay with Chuck Canterbury’s nomination, given that Trump pulled his name from consideration after Senate Republicans expressed concerns over Canterbury’s own views on gun control. As the Washington Times reported last May:
Mr. Canterbury frustrated senators of both parties during his confirmation hearing last summer. Senators repeatedly pressed him for his opinions on the major gun-rights debates facing the country, but Mr. Canterbury demurred saying he could not stray from the FOP’s official positions.
Two Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah, and John Kennedy of Louisiana said the dodging could cost their votes.
“I like straight answers, and you are being evasive,” Mr. Kennedy said at the time. “You have been nominated to run ATF. I think every member of this panel, both my Democratic friends and Republican friends who have feelings about the Second Amendment, are entitled to know both morally and legally what you believe.”
The exasperated senator repeatedly pressed Mr. Canterbury to name any gun ownership restrictions he might support. Mr. Canterbury said he wasn’t familiar enough with ATF policies to know if he could even implement restrictions.
“If you’re not familiar with the process running the ATF, then you are not qualified,” Mr. Kennedy said at the hearing.
I don’t think Canterbury would be Biden’s second choice, though it does raise the possibility that Biden could end up nominating someone that’s acceptable to the firearms industry and unacceptable to gun owners. Still, I suspect that after the humiliating defeat of Biden’s nominee, the president isn’t eager to revisit the issue, particularly when he can still move forward with his anti-gun agenda regardless of who’s heading up the ATF. As Keane points out, there are already several efforts underway.
President Biden already has other gun control initiatives in motion. The public comment period ended for two DOJ-initiated ATF proposed rules; one to redefine frames and receivers and another to reclassify brace-equipped AR-pistols as short barrel rifles. Both have the potential to upend the firearm industry and seriously infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. NSSF submitted comments on both proposals (frames and receivers comments can be found here and brace comments can be found here), pointing out the ATF lacks the authority to change definitions and classifications without Congressional approval. The proposed rules would create a new criminal offense and only Congress has the authority to define federal crimes.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also announced that the health agency was taking a renewed interest in addressing firearms. To be sure, the CDC never stopped studying guns. They’ve never been barred, despite gun control advocates’ claims. The CDC just can’t use gun studies to advocate for gun control measures. Dr. Walensky said she’s interested in bringing in gun owners to be part of the CDC’s discussions, but that sincerity is dubious. The firearm industry has proven efforts in the Real Solutions campaign, that have been cited by the National Safety Council and the Government Accountability Office for their efficacy. So far, the phone call from the CDC hasn’t come in. NSSF is ready to discuss efforts to make communities safer, so long as the rights of law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights are respected.
Well there’s the rub. The Biden administration has no desire to respect the rights of law-abiding citizens when it comes to keeping and bearing arms. In fact, Biden and his anti-gun allies view legal gun owners (and the firearms industry) as the enemy. As long as there’s a Democrat in the White House, the threats to our Second Amendment rights will continue, and gun owners are going to have to continue to be engaged and involved in defending our rights.
That means working to elect pro-2A politicians in next year’s midterms in order build a Congressional firewall around our right to keep and bear arms, as well as supporting organizations that are bringing legal challenges to gun control laws from coast-to-coast. It means working locally to enact Second Amendment Sanctuary policies with teeth, engaging in outreach to turn new gun owners into 2A activists, and pushing back against the lies and misinformation spread by the gun control lobby and their partners in the media.
David Chipman’s defeat is significant for both sides of the gun control debate, but the fight over his nomination won’t be the last that gun owners face over the next three years. Keane is right that now is not the time for complacency. Instead, we need to be doing everything we can to grow our grassroots army for the political battles ahead.