President Biden plans to pull David Chipman’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the face of opposition from gun rights groups, Republican senators and a few Democrats.
With the Senate evenly divided and Republicans united in opposition, Chipman needed every Democratic and independent senator to push his nomination across the line. In the end, that didn’t happen.
On Thursday, two sources close to the matter told NPR that Biden will pull the nomination in the coming days.
The result means the ATF will be without a Senate-confirmed boss yet again. The agency hasn’t had a confirmed director in six years. It’s had only one since Congress made the position Senate approved in 2006.
Gun violence prevention advocates called the administration’s decision to pull Chipman’s nomination a blow to Biden’s efforts to address what the president himself has described as an “epidemic” of gun violence in the United States.
“This is a boon for gun manufacturers that profit from the weak enforcement of existing gun laws and have spent millions maligning this dedicated public servant,” said Igor Volsky, founder and executive director of Guns Down America.
Those who opposed Chipman’s nomination, however, welcomed the news.
“Glad to hear reports the White House is taking my advice and pulling the terrible nomination of David Chipman,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter. “Absurd that a vocal opponent of Americans’ constitutional rights was ever picked to run ATF. This is a win for the Second Amendment and law-abiding American citizens.”
The struggle to get a confirmed director on the books over the years has been due in large part to opposition from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
That dynamic played out again this time. The NRA, Gun Owners of America, the National Association for Gun Rights and similar groups blasted Chipman’s nomination, calling him a threat to law-abiding gun owners.
Chipman is currently a senior policy adviser at Giffords, the gun violence prevention group started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was almost killed in a mass shooting in 2011.
Chipman, who says he himself owns guns, has voiced support for a ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines.
Before he became a gun control advocate, he worked for more than two decades for the ATF, first as a special agent in the field and later in a supervisory role.
His advocacy work earned him strong support from the gun violence prevention community.
But it also energized gun rights groups, who lobbied hard to try to torpedo his confirmation.
Earlier this summer, Democrats expressed confidence that they’d be able to secure the votes necessary to push Chipman through. But as the summer progressed, Chipman’s nomination ended up stuck in limbo for weeks as a few key Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana — as well as independent Angus King of Maine remained on the fence.