The White House will withdraw the nomination of gun control activist David Chipman to lead the ATF after moderates objected to his selection — handing President Biden a key defeat on a platform promise to tighten federal gun policies.
The demise of Chipman’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was reported by the Washington Post, Politico and Fox News. The White House did not immediately issue a statement.
It’s the second major Biden nomination to flop. Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee to be White House budget director, was yanked after an uproar over attack tweets she issued against the very senators whose votes were needed for confirmation.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, applauded the news.
“Mr. Chipman’s long record as a partisan, anti-Second Amendment activist raised plenty of concerns about how he’d administer federal firearms laws,” Grassley said.
“But that wasn’t the only cause for concern. The record he concealed from Congress, some of which remains hidden to this day, about how he treated his fellow employees while at the ATF confirms his lack of fitness to lead the agency.”
Chipman’s long-stalled nomination needed the support of centrist Democrats in the evenly divided Senate after moderate Republicans said they would oppose him.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) remained publicly undecided on Chipman’s nomination, as did Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Chipman worked for 25 years as an ATF agent, but more recently worked for gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He said pro-gun advocates were mischaracterizing his record and that he was in fact a gun owner.
Chipman’s support for banning AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles earned him particular opposition among Republicans who feared he’d use his regulatory powers to restrict gun rights.
Centrist Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she opposed Chipman because “I am concerned that his confirmation would do significant damage to the collaborative working relationship that must exist between ATF, the firearms industry, sportsmen and women, and other law-abiding gun owners exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
The ATF has broad powers to regulate licensed gun dealers. To address rising violent crime involving guns, Biden in June instructed the ATF to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward rules violations among gun dealers — a potentially significant move because in fiscal 2020, the ATF performed nearly 6,000 inspections of licensees and found violations in about 44 percent of cases, though most received warnings or no penalty and just 136 of 2,550 violators lost their licenses.