David Chipman finally figured out how to define "assault weapon"

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

He famously failed to do so during his confirmation hearing after being nominated by Joe Biden to head up the ATF, but gun control activst and former ATF agent David Chipman apparently had no trouble defining the phrase during a recent online meeting hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and March For Our Lives. As the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Larry Keane writes, even before the event began virtual attendees had to sign a waiver with an… unusual provision for groups that want to hold gun companies responsible for those who criminally misuse their products.

The “terms” included a nondisclosure agreement, a liability release and “Safety and Security” release, indemnifying the Everytown and the other groups. That means no one could hold Everytown responsible for “injury, illness, damages, costs, claims or losses.” Gun control groups didn’t want to be held responsible for the misdeeds, or potentially criminal actions, of remote third parties.

Yet, that’s exactly what they want for the firearm industry when they push for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). That’s the law that prevents frivolous lawsuits for the criminal actions of remote third parties – also known as criminals.

During the webinar itself, Chipman finally disclosed to all those who signed the nondisclosure agreement what he (and I suppose the gun control lobby at large) defines as an “assault weapon.”

Chipman didn’t only reveal his previously secret definition of an “assault weapon.” Now that he’s no longer in the running to be the head of the ATF, Chipman’s also a quite a bit more forthcoming about using the agency to regulate everything he considers an “assault weapon” under the National Firearms Act; meaning government registration and the payment of a $200 tax stamp per gun.

He still advocates that MSRs should be regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act, the same way the ATF regulates automatic firearms, short-barrel rifles and shotguns and suppressors. That’s because Chipman believes MSRs, which he already explained are less powerful than most other hunting rifles, are more lethal than a “Thompson machine gun.”

I wonder if Chipman believes that the Hughes Amendment would then cover semi-automatic rifles as well, which would mean an immediate ban on production and sale of modern sporting rifles.

This is sort of a Hail Mary pass by the gun control movement, but after Bruen I think they’ve become more inclined to these kinds of desperate moves. The idea is that the ATF would declare that all modern sporting rifles (and perhaps even all semi-automatic firearms are readily converted to machine guns, and therefore already fall under the purview of the NFA. Now that Joe Biden has an ATF director in place, this might very well be the next big gun control push from his administration, especially if his new rules on unfinished frames and receivers and pistol stabilizing braces are upheld by lower courts. It could take some time for those cases to get to SCOTUS, which is also the case for the challenge to Maryland’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” that the Court granted, vacated, and remanded back to the Fourth Circuit. In the meantime Biden and gun control activists may feel confident and/or desperate enough to swing for the fences.