The Daily Beast Thinks NRA Owns ATF

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File

The scourge of gun owners everywhere is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, aka The Fun Police. I mean, they regulate almost everything people consider part of a good time. However, did you know that the NRA actually owns this federal agency?

No, no, it’s apparently true.

I mean, never mind that the bump stock ban didn’t include a grandfather clause, something the NRA supported. Never mind that a ban on arm braces is something the NRA hasn’t even given lip service toward supporting. All of that is irrelevant.

At least, that’s what The Daily Beast would have you believe.

The NRA declared bankruptcy; its longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, has been disgraced, setting the gun-rights group back on its heels.

Yet the NRA is still a powerful enough force in Washington politics to derail President Biden’s effort to install a Senate-confirmed leader of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), once again reminding gun control advocates of how steep the climb is to achieve reasonable regulation of firearms.

Cam has already pointed out one of the bizarre claims in the Daily Beast’s report, but I want to focus on columnist Eleanor Clift’s assertion that the NRA “owns” the ATF. Yes, it was only the NRA who opposed David Chipman to be director of the ATF, an agency he worked at for over 25 years without holding any key leadership positions. The NSSF, GOA, and every other gun rights group out there issued opposition to Chipman, but it was really all about the NRA.

While it’s mired in myriad Washington scandals, the NRA still has a devoted following in communities across America that aren’t bothered by mainstream media coverage of LaPierre living the high life on the NRA’s dime, or his botched shooting of an elephant in Botswana. They see that as the elites “coming after us” and coming for their guns. Knocking off another ATF nominee is the kind of fight the NRA loves, said Jim Kessler, who cut his teeth on Capitol Hill working on the assault weapons ban in the ’90s.

“The ATF director is on page 12 (of the newspaper) if he’s on any page at all,” Kessler continued. “It’s their kind of fight, where they’re the only one really paying attention.” Most Americans aren’t focused on who will lead the ATF, and when President Biden withdrew his nomination of former ATF agent David Chipman earlier this month, it received scant notice even though it was only the second time Biden pulled a Senate-confirmable appointee. (The other was Neera Tanden for the OMB.)

And honestly, the media is more enamored with what Wayne LaPierre is doing than most gun owners. Some have issues with the NRA and others don’t. Some like Wayne and some don’t.

No one takes marching orders from the NRA, though.

See, what The Daily Beast doesn’t seem to grasp is that Chipman wasn’t going to be confirmed no matter what. Even had the NRA folded completely, Chipman was such a trainwreck as a nominee that he was never going to get the votes needed. He’d mocked gun owners well before he was nominated. He’d shot his own foot.

The NRA didn’t have to do all that much to keep him from being confirmed.

To be fair, The Daily Beast does eventually mention others were involved in the effort:

The NRA did not act alone. It was aided and abetted by an interlocking array of groups with lower national profiles. Among them is the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation), headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut, just two miles from the school where 20 first graders were gunned down in December 2012. The NSSF’s pressure campaign helped persuade Senator Angus King of Maine to oppose Chipman. King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and voted yes on background checks after the Sandy Hook shooting when several Democrats from swing states voted no, didn’t want to stand against sportsmen this time and, with all 50 Republicans opposed, that proved politically fatal.

The Daily Beast went on to try and debunk many of the allegations that had been leveled against Chipman, such as the alleged picture of him standing in front of the charred remains of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco and allegations he’d left his service weapon in a bathroom.

Oddly, their defense of the charge of leaving his weapon behind stems from a lack of evidence, yet they ignore that such evidence would be in his personnel file, which was never released to the Senate.

They also failed to address allegations first reported by Stephen Gutowski in The Reload about Chipman’s racially insensitive comments about black ATF agents. Probably because they couldn’t debunk those.

Yet while those allegations, whether true or not, didn’t help Chipman’s chances, what really sank him was the fact that he was an anti-Second Amendment advocate paid for by the gun control lobby. That’s why he lost and that’s really what people cared about when it came to David Chipman.

No amount of apologetics from The Daily Beast will change that fact, either. The NRA didn’t have to “own” the ATF for that to be true, either.