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April 12, 2021

Here’s Why David Chipman is a Terrible Choice for ATF Director

By Larry Keane

It’s hard to think of a worse possible nominee than David Chipman to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). President Joe Biden could have nominated Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, as he infamously promised him a gun control job at an El Paso campaign appearance. Or maybe even given the nod to Michael Bloomberg. It seems President Biden’s primary qualifications for the job are “must hate guns” and “belittle those who buy guns.”

The nomination of Chipman is a troubling reversal of years of pro-active safety cooperation between ATF and our industry.  It is an undeniable targeting of a Constitutionally protected industry by President Biden who called us “the enemy.” It is also a reckless betrayal of the brave men and women of the ATF who have a difficult enough job without the politicization of the ATF. Under Chipman ATF will pivot from enforcing the laws enacted by Congress to political activism.

Chipman is wholly unqualified to lead the men and women of the ATF. He surrendered any notion of being able to execute the duties the office requires when he became a lobbyist for Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and later for Giffords gun control group, along with his position as senior policy advisor at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Among the bills he lobbied Congress were universal background checks, handgun licensing and registration, banning modern sporting rifles (MSRs), instituting age-based gun bans and to establish a national firearm transfer delay period.

That’s an unacceptable starting point for any nominee for this position. It’s putting the fox in charge of watching the hen house. The inverse would be if President Donald Trump had nominated Wayne LaPierre to take the job during his administration. The mainstream media and gun control camp would have howled, and not without cause. That’s why NSSF won’t passively simply oppose this nomination. NSSF is adamantly opposed. It will treat this nomination, and any senators who vote in favor of it, as the threat to the firearm industry and Americans’ ability to exercise their fundamental Second Amendment rights that it is.

Chipman is unqualified and unworthy of this position of public trust. The U.S. Senate has a role to advise and consent, and it must examine the factors that make Chipman unacceptable as the ATF director.


Chipman’s nomination is the thank-you card for which gun control groups have been waiting. Several groups made it clear they expected President Biden to deliver big for them, because they delivered big for him on the campaign trail. Bloomberg’s March for Our Lives demanded $1 billion in spending for gun bans and gun control, along with a Cabinet-level position to emphasize the Executive Branch’s seriousness on gun control. Just weeks ago, Giffords gun control was emphasizing their desire for action.

Gun control just got paid back in a big way. They didn’t get “a” man for the job. They got “their” man.

It was also a political play with Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz). He’s the co-founder of Giffords gun control, along with his wife and former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, for who the group is named. It is his organization that would be at the point of enacting a gun control agenda and it would be a favor that President Biden would likely call in later.


President Biden made a show of talking up Chipman’s 25 years as an ATF agent. The president didn’t explain that those years weren’t without lingering questions. Chipman was “case agent in [the] Branch Davidian trial” while stationed in Waco, Texas, from 1993 to 1998. Chipman reportedly claimed Branch Davidians downed two helicopters with .50-caliber rounds during the 51-day siege. A U.S House of Representatives report indicated that no helicopters were downed or any crew hurt.

Chipman’s antipathy wasn’t limited to Waco. He derided the 8.4 million first-time gun buyers who purchased a firearm last year for self-protection during the pandemic. Chipman dismissed the buyers as fearful and preparing “for end times scenarios and zombie apocalypses.”

“If you didn’t think you needed a gun prior to March of this year, you certainly don’t need to rush out and get one now,” Chipman added.

He said new gun owners “might think they are die-hard, ready-to-go, but unfortunately, they’re more like Tiger King and they’re putting themselves and their families in danger.”

“Secure that gun, locked and unloaded and hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky that you have stored in a cabinet and only bring that out if the zombies start to appear,” he said.

Only in President Biden’s mind, are these statements somehow better than “Beto” O’Rourke’s “Hell Yes” announcement on wanting to confiscate 20 million MSRs.

ATF deserves a leader, not a former gun control lobbyist with a political agenda. The Senate must reject this nomination.

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