“Our weak gun law makes it all too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands – and since Congress has not resolved these gaps legally, the ATF must map a new course to combat the scourge of gun violence,” he wrote in a op-ed and POLITIC in 2013.
Chipman’s numerous interviews, statements and testimonies have earned him praise among lawyers who have long pushed for gun restrictions, as well as ATF veterans who described his nomination as historic.
“This is the first person nominated who can somehow be associated with any form of gun control,”
But the same qualities seem destined to cause difficulties in the Senate, split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, who will consider his nomination. Chipman, who probably realized this, recently made his Twitter account private. In previously archived tweets, Chipman retweeted criticism of former President Donald Trump and former Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, specifically regarding firearms.
Moderate senators, including Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Did not issue a statement on the nomination or respond to requests for comment. The White House notified some lawmakers in advance of Chipman’s nomination, a Hill aide said, but they did not respond to questions about whether it warned Manchin or Sinema. Late Thursday, Manchin told CNN that Chipman is “well-qualified,” but said he needed more information.
Biden announced Chipman’s nomination in the White House on Thursday as part of a package of executive action to curb gun violence, which was immediately praised by groups pushing for restrictions and criticized by organizations opposed to change.
At ATF, Chipman helped with high-profile cases, including bombs at the World Trade Center in 1993 and Oklahoma City in 1995, and was eventually named a special agent in charge of firearms programs.
After leaving government, Chipman worked at Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that pushes for gun restrictions, and ShotSpotter, a company that advocates for changes in police management strategies. He is now one Senior Advisor in Giffords, a group founded by the former rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) After she was shot and seriously injured. He will remain in Giffords until his vote of confirmation.
On his Linkedin profile, Chipman lists himself as a “strategist for reducing violent crime” and “an expert in preventing gun violence.” He says he is “dedicated to developing, implementing and evaluating strategies to reduce gun violence aimed at making neighborhoods safe.”
“He’s the right person at the moment for this important agency,” Biden said of Chipman Announcement about Rose Garden, with Giffords sitting in the audience along with other gun survivors, members of Congress and lawyers. Biden supports many of the policies that Chipman has publicly supported, including a ban on assault weapons and the extension of background checks, such as polls show are popular with the majority of Americans.
Criticism from the right was swift. National Rifle Association spokesman Amy Hunter said the appointment of Attorney General Merrick Garland and Chipman shows that “Biden has made it clear that his goal is to limit the rights of law-abiding gun owners while ignoring criminals and pretending to be material,” that actually keeps Americans safe. ”
Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, said Chipman “shills for gun confiscation with Gun Control Inc.” and that he has “embraced all proposed hair-controlled gun control schemes.”
And Newsmax TV host John Cardillo tweeted, “Any Republican senator who votes to confirm Chipman as ATF chief goes to the top of our” must primary “list.”
Biden aides and allies hope Chipman can win narrow approval in the Senate. But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to say whether she is convinced he could be confirmed in response to questions Thursday.
“It’s up to the Senate,” she said. “The president chooses who he wants to appoint. He is nominated for a person who is qualified. He has decades of experience. He himself is a gun owner, and it is up to the Senate to decide if they move forward with his nomination. ”
Chipman did not reply to messages. The White House and Giffords did not make him available for comment.
Chipman has written and spoken at length about gun safety and sometimes mentioned his own work and life.
“I am also a proud gun owner who has sometimes been wrongly characterized as a gun grabber, first in my career in the service of my country and now as a spokesman for gun safety,” he wrote last year in a op-ed in the Roanoke Times.
In the same piece, Chipman, who lives in Virginia, criticized law enforcement officials in the state who declared their locations “sanctuaries of Second Amendment” that were exempt from gun laws passed by state legislators in Richmond.
“The second amendment presupposes that firearms are ‘well regulated’ and that individual sheriffs have no right to decide whether a particular regulation is constitutional – that is the task of the court,” he wrote.
In other remarks, Chipman expressed support for so-called red-flag laws that allow courts to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may be a danger to himself or others; to regulation AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in the same way as machine guns; and to continue to regulate pistol dampers.
At a congressional hearing in 2019 after back-to-back mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, Chipman repeatedly described the necessary balance between the right of individuals to own weapons versus the right of individuals to be safe.
“Our nation’s current crisis gun violence has made two things very clear: one, it’s far too easy for violent people to get hold of violent weapons,” he said. “Two, the American people overwhelmingly want Congress to act now to make their communities more secure.”
But in an undated PowerPoint presentation, Chipman advised colleagues who advocated firearms restrictions to focus on policies that most Americans can support.
“Advocates for gun rights want you to talk about guns – not prevent guns,” he said. “Always turn to reasonable political solutions supported by the majority of Americans.”
ATF has mostly had acting directors since the position was Senate-confirmed in 2006. Todd Jones was confirmed as ATF-director in 2013 after a long period as acting director. If confirmed, Chipman would be the first permanent director since 2015.
“David Chipman spent a quarter of a century serving his country and fighting for safer societies at the ATF, blowing up the arms trade and investigating horrific bombs and arson,” Jones said. “His decisions affected the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of agents, yet he never wavered in his conviction or leadership ability.”
Daniel Payne, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.