Flamed Out as ATF Boss, Could Chipman be Gun Czar?
The White House spiked the nomination for David Chipman to be head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but the Biden-Harris administration is still looking to give the vocal anti-gun group advisor a role in the government.
At a press conference stacked with gun control advocates in April, President Biden vouched the retired ATF agent and Giffords policy advisor was "the right person, at this moment, for this important agency." However, dogged by opposition from Republican lawmakers, the National Sheriffs Association, and a wide array of sportsmen, Second Amendment and firearms industry groups, Chipman stalled in the Senate with even some Democrats balking at supporting his nomination.
With that, the White House signaled Thursday they would withdraw Chipman's nomination, saying he "would have been an exemplary Director of the ATF and would have redoubled its efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence."
2A Community, Gun Industry Reacts
“I want to thank every gun owner and concerned voter who contacted their Senators and helped us stop this dangerous nominee from being confirmed,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb. “This is a great grassroots victory for the Second Amendment. Gun rights lobby 1, Biden gun ban lobby zero!”
The non-partisan DC Project, which highlights the diversity and rising demographic of female gun owners, held that Chipman would have been a disaster for law-abiding firearm owners across the nation, and he would have had a detrimental impact on women’s ability to protect themselves and their families.
Founder of the DC Project, Dianna Muller, stated, "The DC Project applauds the Senators who listened to voices of their constituents and sent a message to the Administration that Chipman was unfit to lead the Bureau of Alcohol Tabacco Firearms and Explosives."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the American firearms industry, had this to say:
NSSF led the opposition to Chipman’s nomination. Mr. Chipman is clearly unqualified to lead ATF due to his employment as a gun control lobbyist for Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. He had previously testified on Capitol Hill in favor of gun bans, gun registration and gun control policies that were not in keeping with the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. He also made denigrating remarks about the 8.4 million first-time gun buyers last year, calling into question his ability to fairly and evenly apply the law as written and firearm regulations.
Anti-Gun Crowd Sour Grapes
Meanwhile, Giffords, who has employed Chipman for years, bemoaned the withdrawal of such a nominee with "immense qualifications" saying they have long called for "strong leadership at ATF" to address issues such as the "proliferation of untraceable ghost guns" and the scuttling of his appointment is a win for the gun industry.
"This is a shameful day. We are less safe as a result of the Senate’s failure to confirm David Chipman," said Peter Ambler, Giffords executive director.
Could be installed as Gun Czar?
A collection of small anti-gun groups has been pressuring the Oval Office to bypass Congress and establish a sort of gun control "czar" to help coordinate a national crackdown. Such an executive position would not have to be confirmed by the Senate and would be akin to John Kerry's role as the first head of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
Such a position, the Office of "Gun Violence Prevention" – a more updated spin on the more recognizable term "gun control" coined by national groups such as Brady and Giffords – would "recognize gun violence as a national security crisis and a public health and prevention priority, and establish a long-term sustained effort to reduce gun deaths."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday expressed that the administration remains impressed with Chipman enough to continue to find a spot for him to use his skill set.
"Obviously, he has exemplary credentials," she said of the Waco-era career ATF agent and gun control policy sage. "He’s someone the President has a great deal of respect for. And we’re in active discussions with him about what role might be of interest to him in the federal government."
But what about ATF?
Jen Psaki on Thursday said the administration will continue to seek to confirm a new ATF director but didn't elaborate on who could be next to run the Senate Judiciary Committee gauntlet or what timeline they would be nominated.
From the outside looking in, the nation's gun regulatory agency doesn't seem to need a permanent Senate-confirmed director to continue its day-to-day mission. Although the ATF likes to trace its timeline to 1789, it only became an independent Bureau in 1972, inheriting its functions from the Internal Revenue Service. Since 2006, it has only had a single permanent director that has been confirmed by the Senate, a requirement that came with the Patriot Act.