A former ATF supervisor who was involved in the Waco Branch Davidian investigation before stumping for anti-gun groups received an evenly split committee vote in the U.S. Senate Wednesday for the nomination to lead the Bureau. 

Nominated by the Biden-Harris Administration to head the ATF, David Chipman was greeted by a divided Senate Judiciary Committee this week, with 11 Democrats holding him up as a needed leader and "enforcer" for the agency which hasn't seen a full-time director since 2015 while 11 Republicans blasted him as a threat to gun rights. 

“As a responsible gun owner who has advocated for commonsense, constitutional gun safety measures—and as someone who has worked to bolster the health and safety of law enforcement —Mr. Chipman is uniquely positioned to restore both credibility and accountability,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durban, D-Ill, who went on to describe the controversial nomination "a test" for the administration. 

"'He is, above everything else, an Enforcer," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., of the nominee. "That's his life's experience-- 25 years as an agent in ATF-- he believes in enforcement." 

Republicans, on the other hand, slammed Chipman, who has worked for years for a series of anti-gun groups, as a gun control zealot. 

"The reason I'm voting against this gentleman is because I believe he will use his position, based on his record and his testimony, to try to prosecute an agenda that he can't get by the voters through their elected representatives," said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA. 

Missouri's Republican U.S Sen. Josh Hawley, who served as the Show Me State's Attorney General, criticized the current crime wave while urging opposition to Chipman who he disagreed with the nominee's agenda "to take away Second Amendment rights from law-abiding citizens while violent criminals are loose on our streets." 



U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, railed against Chipman on behalf of the "hundreds of millions of Americans who want their Constitutional rights protected-- who want to be able to defend their families and do not want to see the government taking away their right to defend their home, their lives, and their family." 



Under the provisions of S. Res. 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the chamber's top Dem, can now file a discharge motion on Chipman’s nomination to place him on the executive calendar. Should that motion pass, it would set the nominee up for a final vote that would install him as head of the nation's gun regulatory agency at a time when numerous new rules are pending to give the ATF unprecedented reach. 


Groups line up on both sides

While gun prohibitionist groups such as Everytown and Giffords have said that "David Chipman is uniquely qualified to lead ATF," Second Amendment organizations are urging concerned Americans to contact their Senators to oppose his confirmation. 

"Make no mistake, David Chipman is a gun control extremist and cannot be trusted," said the NRA in a statement. "For years, Chipman has been a shill for the gun control lobby and has called for bans on America’s most popular firearms. It is clear that if he is confirmed as the next ATF Director, Chipman would use every tool at his disposal to attack the rights of law-abiding American gun owners."

No less than two dozen conservation groups ranging from the Boone and Crockett Club to Duck Unlimited have published an open letter against Chipman while Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and 19 other state attorneys general have decried his consideration for the lead job at ATF. 

"Given Mr. Chipman’s history of anti-gun lobbying and political activism, Americans cannot be reasonably expected to believe he will be an unbiased enforcer of current laws,” said the collection of AGs. "As the chief legal and law enforcement officers in our respective states, we are concerned that Mr. Chipman will make Americans less safe by diverting ATF resources to attack the rights of law-abiding gun owners instead of cracking down on violent criminals and criminal organizations."

Meanwhile, 16 AGs that trend towards having stricter gun control than the norm, such as California, Delaware, Illinois, and New York, support Chipman's nomination. 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the American firearms industry, which ranges from mom-and-pop gun stores to publicly-traded manufacturers, has worked closely with ATF on compliance issues for decades but is not a fan of Chipman. 

"The firearm industry has been in the leading edge of preventing the criminal misuse of firearms," Mark Oliva, NSSF's public affairs director, told Guns.com. "NSSF partners with the ATF to prevent the illegal straw purchases of firearms through our 'Don’t Lie for the Other Guy' campaign, which has been in place for more than two decades. We just conducted a Don’t Lie event in Chicago with the ATF and U.S. Attorneys. NSSF has provided over 100,000 Don’t Lie kits to retailers to prevent illegal straw purchases and provides them to the ATF to distribute during inspections. There is no one more interested in holding criminals accountable for their misuse of firearms than the industry," he said. 

"The firearm industry has, for years, worked to increase resources for both the ATF and FBI to ensure those bureaus have the resources," said Oliva. "Unfortunately, the President is doing what NSSF warned of. He is attempting to use the ATF to as a cudgel against the industry. This is why the pending confirmation vote in David Chipman is critical. He has made a career of pushing a radical gun control agenda and would be the President’s 'yes man' to politicize the ATF against the firearm industry."

Banner photo: Committee of the Judiciary hearing screenshot.