David Chipman, nominated by Joe Biden to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was advised by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to be prepared for a “bumpy road to confirmation,” according to Reuters.
Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Chipman, “Buckle your seatbelt,” Reuters noted.
But Chipman’s nomination was already in trouble before the Senate hearing opened. According to the Daily Caller, a coalition of 20 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Senate leadership opposing Chipman’s confirmation. All of the attorneys general signing the letter are Republicans, from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
In the letter, quoted by the Daily Caller, the state AGs wrote, “As state Attorneys General, we took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect the rights and freedoms of our constituents. These responsibilities force us to stand in opposition to Mr. Chipman’s nomination and in support of our constituents’ rights.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Caller also reported 17 Democrat attorneys general have written in support of Chipman.
During questioning, Chipman was grilled on his opinion about handgun ownership, and he acknowledged support for a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” without offering a definition of such a firearm. Instead, he alluded to an ATF definition that essentially included modern semi-auto centerfire rifles.
Chipman’s recent history as a senior advisor to a gun control organization raises eyebrows, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member observed, “Many see putting a committed gun control proponent, like David Chipman, in charge of A.T.F. is like putting a tobacco executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, or Antifa in charge of the Portland police department,” according to the New York Times.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) challenged Chipman about remarks he made in April 2020 when he compared new gun owners “people preparing for a zombie apocalypse,” according to the Daily Caller. It’s not clear whether any Republican on the committee believed Chipman’s claim that he was using self-deprecating humor when he remarked that these first-time gun owners should “secure that gun locked and unloaded and hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky,” by asserting he was talking about himself.
Lee called the remarks “flippant” and “troubling.”
Chipman’s nomination reportedly received support from various law enforcement organizations including the National Black Police Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, and Women in Federal Law Enforcement, according to the New York Times.
The Times is suggesting there may be enough Senate votes for Chipman to narrowly be confirmed. Reportedly on the line are Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.