Bad News For Chipman: The Gun Control Lobby Has A New Golden Boy

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

While Michael Bloomberg’s network of anti-gun groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns are the best-funded and most well known, the outfit founded and named for former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is also playing a major role within the gun control lobby these days. Not only is Giffords co-founder Mark Kelly now the junior senator from Arizona, it was Giffords senior advisor David Chipman who was tapped by Joe Biden to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. But after Chipman’s nomination crashed and burned, the group appears to be elevating the profile of former Kimber executive-turned-anti-gun activist Ryan Busse as gun control’s new golden boy.

Busse has a memoir/gun control screed coming out next week, and the PR push is already underway. Bloomberg’s pro-gun control news outlet The Trace wrote a glowing profile of Busse and his wife, which Slate has picked up and promoted. Expect a flurry of television and print appearances by Busse over the next couple of weeks, with plenty of fawning comments from MSNBC and CNN hosts about how “brave” Busse is for speaking out about his change of heart, but few if any questions about why Busse didn’t leave Kimber until August of 2020 when he’d clearly changed his views on gun ownership long before then.

His wife, Sara, who also came from a Kansas hunting family, challenged Busse to think deeply about whether the Republican party really stood for his values. “With every school shooting, things  became more and more fraught,” she told The Trace. When two teenagers killed a dozen of their classmates at Columbine, Sara called her husband at work to ask if he felt complicit in the tragedy. Whispering into the phone, Busse protested that Kimber rifles were usually too expensive to be used as crime guns. But Sara balked. “That’s what you have to say for yourself?” Busse remembers her asking. “That they didn’t use your guns?”

“She was asking me some pretty hard questions, and I didn’t have awesome answers for her,” he said. “And that sort of started the evolution and opened my eyes.”

The Columbine shootings took place in 1999, or more than 20 years before Busse finally parted ways with Kimber. That’s an awfully long time for someone to open their eyes, isn’t it?

According to Busse’s LinkedIn profile, he left Kimber in July of 2020. And according to The Trace, that was about the same time he took on a new paid role as a gun control lobbyist.

In the summer of 2020, Busse accepted a position as an adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and last summer he was hired as a senior advisor to the gun violence prevention group Giffords. He wrote the book, he said, because Americans deserve to know how the country got so polarized, and to encourage the ocean of silent moderates that he believes are out there to find their voices.

Now, I may disagree with Busse’s positions on gun control, but he’s certainly entitled to his opinion. What I do find despicable and dishonest, however, is the fact that he and his wife were apparently fine with him collecting a paycheck from a gunmaker until he had his career change all mapped out. Based on the timing of his departure, it certainly looks like Busse wasn’t willing to jump ship until Joe Biden and the gun control lobby had sent out a lifeboat for him and his family, even though he had come to the conclusion that he was working for “an industry that radicalized America” long before then.

I’ve got no use for Busse’s B.S., but clearly he’s a much more valuable property for the gun control lobby; the former firearms executive who became so fed up with what he saw that he had to walk away. It’s a compelling narrative..  as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the timeline of events. When you do that, what’s most striking about Busse’s story isn’t the fact that he left the firearms industry, it’s that he stayed for so long when he believed it was in the wrong. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that cowardice, not courage.