WaPo Editors Ignore Realities Of Chipman's Defeat

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

If there was any doubt that the demise of David Chipman’s nomination as permanent director of the ATF has gun control activists in a rage, look no further than the editorial pages of the Washington Post, where the editors uncorked a torrent of misinformation and vitriol aimed at those it believes responsible for Chipman’s defeat; the “the gun lobbyists who attacked the nominee, showing how morally off-kilter, yet enduringly powerful, the lobby remains.”

To be fair, the paper’s editors also try to shame red-state Democrats like Joe Manchin and Angus King (an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate), saying they “lacked the courage” to stand up to “the gun lobby.” The problem with that argument is that according to a poll conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a majority of respondents in both Maine and West Virginia were opposed to Chipman’s nomination. It wasn’t cowardice that led to Manchin and King rejecting Chipman, but a desire to not stray too far from the wishes of voters. In fact, who’s to say that it wasn’t an act of political courage for these Democrats to reject Chipman, knowing that the national party and its erstwhile allies in the media were going to slam them for their decision?

The Post editorial absurdly ignores the reporting of The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski, which revealed several allegations of racial impropriety on the part of Chipman, including a comment he made about the number of Black agents on a promotions list. Instead, the paper claims that “with a weak substantive case against Mr. Chipman, his critics objected most strongly to his attitude.”

He has emphasized that people who buy guns for protection might put themselves in more danger if they do not store them safely and seek proper training, advising new gun owners to “hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky that you’ve stored in the cabinet.” He explained that a disturbing number of people have bought AR-15 rifles for “the same reason Americans might want a muscle car or enjoy a muscle car: It’s American-made, it has outsized power.” He attacked the National Rifle Association for its lobbying against measures that would make the country’s gun-saturated society safer. These and other comments, his opponents argued, revealed contempt for gun owners — even though Mr. Chipman himself owns a gun.

It should not be disqualifying for a public servant to acknowledge the realities of gun violence in the United States, which is unique among advanced nations in tolerating such carnage. Nor should wanting to take popular, small steps toward curbing the flow of guns that serve no legitimate civilian purpose.

While Chipman’s alleged racist remarks certainly didn’t help his cause, what ultimately doomed his nomination was the fact that he’s worked as a paid gun control lobbyist for most of the past decade (at least when he wasn’t hawking a product that’s alleged to lead to overpolicing in minority neighborhoods) and displayed an outright hostility towards gun owners. Take Chipman’s snarky comment about hiding their guns behind the “cans of tuna and beef jerky.” The Washington Post seems to think that was actual advice, as opposed to sarcastic scoffing at the millions of Americans who purchased a firearm for the first time in their lives last year.

As for the Post‘s assertion that Chipman can’t really be anti-gun because he’s a gun owner himself, I’d like to introduce the editors to a concept called “hypocrisy.” Who cares if Chipman owns a gun? It’s the fact that he wants to criminalize millions of other gun owners by declaring their lawfully-purchased firearms to be illegal or restricted items that’s more important.

Chipman wasn’t disqualified because he “acknowledged the realities of gun violence in the United States.” He was disqualified because he blames legal gun owners and the firearms industry for the actions of criminals, because of his longtime advocacy on behalf of the gun control lobby, and because of the concerns within the ATF itself over the political  weaponizing of the agency if he’d been confirmed. The Washington Post editors may be hot and bothered by the gun control lobby’s defeat, but the fact that they still can’t come clean about Chipman’s baggage and disqualifying factors speaks volumes about what an awful idea it was to nominate him in the first place.