White Home withdraws David Chipman’s nomination as head of ATF
The Biden government on Thursday will withdraw the nomination of David Chipman, a former federal agent who promised to crack down on the use of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at five People with knowledge of the situation.
The withdrawal marks a major blow to President Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence after several mass shootings this year, and comes after his urge to expand background checks on arms purchases, which have stalled in Congress amid the united Republican opposition.
The selection of Mr. Chipman, a longtime ATF official who served as an advisor to the Gun Safety Group formed by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, provoked a violent backlash from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations, who made his endorsement a threat to theirs Second Amendment rights.
Mr Biden, who elected Mr Chipman after pressure from Mrs Giffords and other gun control supporters, needed the support of all 50 Senators sitting with the Democrats and a tie from Vice President Kamala Harris to confirm Mr Chipman .
In the past few weeks, Senator Angus King, an independent Maine meeting with Democrats, told the Biden administration and leaders that he could not support the nomination, citing blunt public statements Mr. Chipman made about gun owners as saying people familiar with the situation.
During a controversial confirmation hearing in May, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee picked up on these comments – including an interview in which Mr Chipman compared gun buying during the pandemic to a zombie apocalypse.
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who originally suggested he be open to the election, eventually got pissed off about the selection as well.
Mr Chipman’s nomination was bogged down in committee but was reported to the Senate for a plenary vote through a parliamentary maneuver. It never got one.
It is Mr Biden’s second high profile nomination to be withdrawn for lack of Democratic support. In March, Neera Tanden, his election as head of the household department, withdrew from the dispute after an uproar over her caustic public statements. She was later employed as a policy advisor in the west wing.
As hopes of Mr. Chipman’s confirmation waned that summer, White House officials began discussing adding him to the government as an advisor, but no decisions were made. The administration has no immediate plans to appoint a new candidate, according to a person involved in the process who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Just last month, the White House signaled it stands by its candidate, praising Mr Chipman’s 25 years of experience as an ATF agent, but also the tough struggle he faced to get confirmation. White House officials blamed Republican lawmakers alone and ignored opposition from members of the Democratic Group.
“We are disappointed with the fact that many Republicans are working in lockstep to stop his nomination and handcuff the federal police agency charged with fighting gun crimes,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in August. “It speaks volumes for their utter refusal to tackle the surge in crime we have seen over the past 18 months.”
The withdrawal was previously reported by the Washington Post.
In the 48 years since its mission shifted primarily to firearms enforcement, the ATF has been weakened by relentless onslaught by the NRA, which critics say has turned it into a constructed agency.
Fifteen years ago, the NRA successfully lobbied to make the appointment of the director contingent on Senate approval – and then helped prevent all but one candidate from taking office.
And at the behest of the NRA, Congress limited the bureau’s budget; Imposing crippling restrictions on the collection and use of gun ownership data, including a ban on soliciting basic arms stocks from arms dealers; and limited unannounced inspections of arms dealers.
Annie Karni contributed to the coverage.