White House To Withdraw David Chipman’s Nomination To Lead ATF

In a setback for President Joe Biden’s agenda, the White House is planning to withdraw the nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Biden picked Chipman, a former ATF agent who has become a gun control advocate and now works for the gun violence prevention group Giffords, to helm the nation’s gun regulator earlier this year.

Chipman faced fierce opposition from gun groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Republican lawmakers, who cast him as an extremist who would do away with the Second Amendment. 

But it wasn’t only Republicans who opposed Chipman’s nomination. Democrats and independents from rural states, including Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), had concerns as well. Several other Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, said they were undecided.

With unanimous GOP opposition and Democratic divisions, Chipman’s nomination languished in the Senate for months. The ATF, the agency that enforces federal gun laws, seems now poised to continue its six-year stretch without a formal director.

With little chance of passing major gun control legislation, the administration was relying on the ATF to crack down on the spread of illegal guns. But the gun industry fought Chipman’s nomination bitterly, driving King — whose state is home to several gun manufacturers — and others to oppose the nomination.

The administration will likely start a new search for a nominee, potentially one without Chipman’s history of gun control advocacy. Chipman served as an ATF agent for decades, but he worked for the groups Everytown For Gun Safety and Giffords after leaving the agency. 

Some gun control advocacy groups, already frustrated with the administration’s relative lack of action on the issue, said Biden should use Chipman’s defeat as an opportunity to name a high-profile point person to coordinate gun control efforts.

“This is the bare minimum for what an administration dedicated to addressing the growing crisis of gun violence should be doing and in the coming weeks and months, Americans across the country will hold President Biden accountable to the commitments he made to us in order to secure the presidency,” said Igor Volsky, the executive director of Guns Down.

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