Pro-Gun Groups Step Up Efforts Against Chipman

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Politicians are often swayed by their constituents. It’s not so much that their opinions change as they simply want to keep their jobs. This is why within the gun debate, campaigning doesn’t actually stop when the elections are over. The hope is always about trying to sway opinion on some matter with officials who might be inclined to support a given policy.

Now, pro-gun groups are gearing up to do just that with the nomination of David Chipman.

David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), is facing intense opposition from gun rights groups that are pushing key senators to reject his nomination.

Chipman spent 25 years with ATF as a special agent. But pro-gun organizations are protesting his nomination over his support for stricter gun laws and previous work as a policy adviser for Giffords, a gun control group.

After launching a lobbying campaign with expensive ad buys ahead of Chipman’s confrontational confirmation hearing in late May, gun groups are now focused on moderates who could swing the outcome, namely Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

“It will come down to a couple of votes, and we all know who,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Defeating Chipman’s nomination is a top priority for the lobbying group, which argues he would reinterpret existing laws to crack down on firearm manufacturers. During his Senate hearing, Chipman told lawmakers he supports banning the AR-15 rifle, but said he would stick to enforcing the laws on the books if confirmed.

Gun groups will need to sway at least one Democrat in the 50-50 Senate to defeat Chipman’s nomination. NSSF is trying to dissuade Democratic senators from supporting Chipman by making the case that his confirmation would lead to the politicization of ATF.

“It would set a very bad precedent for ATF as an organization, because I think it would be highly likely that a Republican administration would then nominate somebody for the position from the [gun] industry or the National Rifle Association,” Keane said. “Democrats would be screaming from the mountaintops if that happened, and they would be justified.”

Keane is correct. The ATF is already a sore spot with gun rights activists as it is. That’s only natural, though, because so many of us hold with the “what part of ‘shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand” line of thinking and the ATF enforces the infringements that are already on the books. That tension is going to exist no matter what you do.

But to put Chipman in that role, someone who has openly advocated for gun control and worked for anti-gun groups following his departure from the ATF would escalate things beyond that natural tension. Instead of an ATF just trying to do a job that we don’t think should exist, we’d see an ATF that would be openly antagonistic to everything we stand for.

That’s not a good thing in a nation with so many tensions in place.

I get that Chipman says he would only enforce the laws that are on the books if appointed, but the problem is that the ATF gets to interpret those laws, which means he still represents a huge issue for gun rights supporters.

Campaigning in these districts is an important effort. It’ll do wonders to keep Chipman out and preserve our Second Amendment rights so much better.

All that’s needed are the 51 votes. Let’s hope this campaign helps us get them.