The White House’s announcement last week that President Joe Biden was withdrawing the nomination of David Chipman for Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was a victory for the firearm industry and gun owners in general. However, it’s not the end of the Biden gun control agenda. Not by a long shot.
Chipman was certainly not a qualified candidate to lead the 5,000-person agency. He is a gun control lobbyist who previously testified before Congress demanding bans on modern sporting rifles (MSRs), enacting age-based gun bans and advocated for national firearm transfer delay periods.
Chipman had other issues. He denigrated first-time gun buyers as apocalypse zombie preppers and Tiger King, and allegations of racially-tinged remarks made toward other ATF agents surfaced after his confirmation hearing.
Just because Chipman’s not in the running for the ATF job, though, doesn’t mean he’s done. Nor does it mean anyone should expect The White House to give up on its gun control agenda.
It’s important to remember what the Biden administration has already put into motion, what they vowed to do, and what gun control is demanding. This is also the first year of the Biden administration. There are still more than three years before voters will have an opportunity to demand a president that respects gun rights.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki didn’t offer a timeframe, but told reporters the Biden administration isn’t planning on leaving the ATF director’s position in the hands of an acting director. “We certainly would at an appropriate time,” Psaki said. There will be another nominee, it’s just unknown who or when.
Politico reported that The White House’s Domestic Policy Council and Office of Public Engagement was calling gun control allies to break the news of Chipman’s nomination withdrawal and was uncommitted to naming a new nominee.
The report said Biden administration officials never worked on a Plan B, assuming they wouldn’t face opposition from Democratic senators, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats. It was ultimately Sen. King who wasn’t swayed by the White House, sinking Chipman’s nomination.
NSSF agrees the bureau needs a confirmed director and NSSF has supported ATF director nominations in the past, including President George W. Bush’s nominee Michael Sullivan, President Barack Obama’s ATF Director B. Todd Jones and President Donald Trump’s nominee Chuck Canterbury. NSSF wants to see a director who will service the ATF’s mission faithfully of administrating federal firearm regulations and proper oversight of the firearm industry.
Chipman wasn’t that person. He would have been gun control’s inside man.
Gun Control Official
Chipman isn’t necessarily out in the cold, either. Politico reported the Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering creating a senior advisor role for Chipman, meaning he is still on President Biden’s radar to advance his gun control agenda. Gun control groups are still demanding President Biden create Cabinet-level office headed by an advisor that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.
That’s not a new item, but one that’s gained newfound support from gun control advocates. Guns Down America, March for Our Lives, Newtown Action Alliance and Survivors Empowered were looking to meet with White House officials to press for such an office. For now, The White House says it’s not in the cards.
“We have an office in the White House on gun policy, which is the Domestic Policy Council,” a White House aide told Politico. They reported that White House staffers, “are working every day on gun violence, and have made this a top priority, so we feel like we do have an office working on gun violence.”
President Biden already has other gun control initiatives in motion. The public comment periods ended for two DOJ-initiated ATF proposed rules; one to redefine frames and receivers and another to reclassify brace-equipped AR-pistols as short barrel rifles. Both have the potential to up end the firearm industry and seriously infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.
NSSF submitted comments on both proposals (frames and receivers comments can be found here and brace comments can be found here), pointing out the ATF lacks the authority to change definitions and classifications without Congressional approval. The proposed rules would create a new criminal offense and only Congress has the authority to define federal crimes.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also announced that the health agency was taking a renewed interest in addressing firearms. To be sure, the CDC never stopped studying guns. They’ve never been barred, despite gun control advocates’ claims. The CDC just can’t use the gun studies to advocate for gun control measures.
Dr. Walensky said she’s interested in bringing in gun owners to be part of the CDC’s discussions, but that sincerity is dubious. The firearm industry has proven efforts in the Real Solutions campaign, that have been cited by the National Safety Council and the Government Accountability Office for their efficacy.
So far, the phone call from the CDC hasn’t come in. NSSF is ready to discuss efforts to make communities safer, so long as the rights of law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights is respected.
The Biden administration doesn’t seem interested in that, though. Chipman’s nomination was evidence of that. Even though his nomination isn’t on the table any longer, he’s still being considered for an administration role and other control efforts that violate Second Amendment rights are in motion. The withdrawal of Chipman’s nomination isn’t the end. There is still work to be done.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.