Most federal nominees receive rote consideration in the Senate. If the president is of the same party as the Senate majority, nominees are generally easily confirmed.
Only a few nominees ever run into any procedural hurdles. The exception to this rule is, and should be, David Chipman, the current nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). To understand why, let’s do a quick recap of some pertinent data points.
Self-Defense Is Still an American Keystone
There are tens of millions of AR-15-style rifles in America, amid more than 320 million privately owned firearms. That’s one firearm per person.
Nearly 20 million Americans have a permit to conceal and carry a firearm, a 304 percent increase since 2007. This does not include the 20 constitutional carry states that do not require a permit to carry a firearm. With more firearms in circulation, violent crime has on average gone down.
Firearms are an important part of the American culture. We can use them recreationally; millions of Americans do it daily. But firearms also serve a more important function as personal protection from violent criminals, and, yes, in the extreme, government agents.
After all, the entire point of the Second Amendment is to ensure that individuals have access to private arms in case the people must, after all other recourses have been exhausted, act as a physical check on abusive foreign or domestic powers, including our own domestic government (see: 1776). For the hand-wringers who proclaim that simple rifles are no match for tanks and jets, the last time I checked, the Taliban still controls wide swaths of territory in Afghanistan after 20 years of U.S. military action there.
Clearly, rifles play an important role in our society to ensure human liberty for generations to come. The Founders of this country made sure to codify what the people at large already nearly unanimously acknowledged: the right to keep and bear arms for self-protection is an inalienable right, and no power existed nor was granted to government to infringe on these basic fundamental rights.
This Is the Problem with David Chipman
It is against this background that Chipman’s nomination has naturally become so divisive. This is not just among gun owners but all Americans who are still concerned with the rule of law and America’s foundational principles.
During Chipman’s May 26 Senate hearing on his nomination, he confirmed his radical, anti-gun agenda and revealed himself to be wholly incompetent. Not a single Republican senator left the hearing saying he or she would vote for Chipman, and many Democrat senators used their time to help him clarify his past statements about gun confiscation and his interest in arresting people before they commit crimes.
In questioning with Sen. Tom Cotton, Chipman claimed the ATF defines an assault rifle as any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22. This would include nearly every one of the 20 million AR-15s in America, and likely most rifles produced within the last 80 years. The M-1 carbine was designed in 1938, for instance.
Chipman also told Sen. Ted Cruz that he supports a total ban of the AR-15. During his exchange with Sen. John Kennedy, Chipman said he was unable to define an assault weapon. Remember, Chipman was a 22-year ATF agent who has lobbied against most citizen-owned firearms.
An Anti-Constitution Activist
When Chipman left the ATF to work for Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Law Center campaign, he walked away from law enforcement and became a very well-paid anti-constitutional activist. The Giffords campaign, where Chipman works, is dedicated to gun confiscation and still claims “the right to possess a firearm is not based on an individual right of self-defense, but rather related to service in a militia based on the prefatory language in the Amendment.”
This is factually wrong, based on the history and text of the U.S. Constitution. At the time of the Constitution’s drafting, the Founding generation had many public conversations about gun ownership being an individual private right. This position was so unanimous, it was one of the few public positions explaining a portion of the proposed Constitution that faced no recorded opposition. The individual right to possess a firearm was also definitively affirmed in the Supreme Court’s DC v. Heller.
Are Chipman and the Giffords campaign for gun confiscation so blinded by their ideology that they won’t even recognize the plain reading and history of the Constitution as confirmed by the Supreme Court? It would seem so.
Chipman’s failures extend much further than ignoring recent Supreme Court opinions. He lobbied Congress for bills that would require direct registration and licensing for guns, which would massively expand, computerize, and weaponize the already massive ATF gun registry the government currently operates. Americans should know that over the long arc of history, the first step to a violent confiscation of firearms is registration.
Contempt for the People He’s Supposed to Serve
Most Americans have clear differences with the Biden administration’s policies on firearms. But these differences are to be expected.
Americans cannot, however, tolerate a political class that hates the people who put them in power. A political class that dehumanizes and insults the American people cannot ever make decisions that originate in ideas and policy. They will use emotion, bias, and bigotry to dominate “the other.” Americans cannot be subjected to that political class.
Chipman is clearly a member of this political class animated by contempt for the Americans they are supposed to serve. During his career as a well-paid anti-gun lobbyist, Chipman dismissed gun 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 , you certainly don’t need to rush out and get one now,” said Chipman. Really? Violent riots engulfed the country at the time, and continued throughout the year. Chipman lacked any sympathy for what Americans were seeing outside their front doors.
He mocked our willingness to protect our loved ones and communities: “[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.”
When he was done impugning gun owners’ motives, he used ignorant stereotypes to insult them: “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 knew then, and knows now, that in 2020 millions of new gun owners entered the fold. Once you include Americans that already owned a firearm, it’s clear that Chipman has an obvious distaste for tens of millions of Americans.
Contempt for Congress, Too
According to his opinion in “Legal and Lethal: 9 Products That Could Be the Next Bump Stock,” Chipman says he can ignore Congress and directly regulate firearms out of existence. So, we are confronted with the likelihood that President Biden’s nominee for the ATF will root his decisions in distaste for Americans, not policies framed by the Constitution.
As a bare minimum for consideration, a Senate nominee must be at least plausibly dedicated to impartially enforcing the laws as passed by Congress. Given Chipman’s overt animus against the very Americans he would be tasked with regulating, he has a severe conflict of interest with this job.
If confirmed, Chipman’s actions would be seen as illegitimate by tens of millions of Americans, increasing the tension between law-abiding citizens and an overreaching government. His nomination should not proceed.