Opposition To ATF Nominee Chipman Grows

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

ATF Director nominee David Chipman may have felt like a slam dunk to the Biden administration. The long-time ATF agent has many of the qualifications you’d look for in a potential director. The problem, of course, is that Chipman has spent the last handful of years working as a professional gun control activist.

So much for President Biden’s whole “unification” thing, huh?

Meanwhile, Chipman is still waiting on a vote over his nomination. Right now, there’s no vote because there aren’t enough to confirm him. With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Chipman needs every Democrat to have his back.

Frankly, a number aren’t interested. The latest potential obstacle is a senator from Maine.

President Joe Biden’s pick to head the ATF is running into a surprising holdout who could bring down the nomination: Sen. Angus King of Maine.

The low-key independent, a member of the Democratic Caucus, has declined to publicly state his position on David Chipman, whom Biden nominated to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But he has signaled to both the Biden administration and his Democratic colleagues that he is currently not supportive of the nominee, as he comes under pressure to buck a pick seen as resistant to gun rights in a state where hunting and gun rights are part of many voters’ DNA.

King has told colleagues in the past week that he is currently a “no” on the nomination, according to a Democratic senator. King told the White House in recent days that he is unlikely to vote for Chipman, according to two others familiar with the discussions. All of those sources cautioned that King could change his mind.

Asked on Monday whether he’d made a decision on Chipman, King said his focus was elsewhere.

“I’m working on the infrastructure bill right now,” he said. “I’m not going to give you an answer.”

King’s current position signals that Chipman’s nomination — already facing long odds — is decidedly on the rocks. Several other Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, said this week they remained undecided.

If King is a no, then Chipman is well and truly sunk.

However, that doesn’t mean King will remain a no vote. It’s possible that he may be up for some wheeling-and-dealing for something he wants coming up. I don’t know that for sure. I’m only mentioning this as an abstract possibility. If that happens, though, King may switch and decide to back Chipman.

I’m not holding my breath, though. While Maine is a blue state, it also is a fairly pro-gun state. It’s unlikely that King would back such a vehement anti-Second Amendment nominee.

Yet King isn’t the only opposition of note.

Over at The Recoil, it seems a number of former ATF agents have made their opposition to Chipman public.

More former ATF agents who worked alongside President Joe Biden’s director nominee are speaking out against his confirmation.

Seven former agents, each with 25 or more years of experience at the ATF, wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders on Tuesday urging them to vote against David Chipman. In a copy of the letter obtained by The Reload, the agents criticize Chipman’s turn from ATF agent to paid gun-control activist. They argued he did not have the experience or temperament to lead the agency and his appointment would degrade ATF’s ability to do its job.

“David’s strong personal beliefs on firearms issues will create serious and long-lasting problems for the Bureau and the effective execution of its law enforcement mission,” the agents said in the letter. “We relied on effective partnerships with industry, stakeholders, and other law enforcement agencies to execute our missions. Unfortunately, if David were confirmed, ATF partners would see someone who is coming to the agency with his top priority being to implement a divisive gun control agenda.”

Many of the concerns raised by the agents who signed their names to the letter match those expressed by the current and former agents who spoke with The Reload. The agents all complained about Chipman’s history of supporting controversial new gun bans and making controversial statements mocking gun owners. The agents in the new letter and the ones in The Reload report agreed the agency needs a long-term director but said Chipman would not be the right fit, based on what they saw while working alongside him.

“Having been at the Bureau at the same time as Mr. Chipman and having followed his career after he left the Bureau, we are very familiar with his leadership style and his approach to leading the agency,” the former agents said in the letter. “While an agent, David did not exhibit the collaborative and respectful type of leadership required of an agency Director that must manage a diverse workforce with challenging issues. While we can say without hesitation that David is very smart, we can also say without hesitation that he was very often not a team player and had a troubling tendency to think he was always right.”

Note that none of this stems from allegations that Chipman made racially motivated remarks denigrating black ATF agents, either. While those are bad, they do more to highlight the hypocrisy of Democrats backing him. This is about Chipman’s leadership, personality in a professional setting, and career history.

Frankly, while Senate Democrats have tried to lay this at the feet of gun rights activists, the problem is and has always been that the Biden administration wants to put an anti-Second Amendment activist in charge of an organization responsible for interpreting our nation’s gun laws. As such, Chipman needs to go.