Anti-Gun Zealot David Chipman Is The Wrong Choice To Lead ATF

David Chipman’s Long Record Of Extreme Anti-Gun Activism And Disparaging Comments About Law-Abiding Gun Owners, Coupled With Concerns About His Behavior From Current And Former ATF Officials, Demonstrate Why His ‘Unusually Divisive’ Nomination To Lead The Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, And Explosives Has Generated So Much Opposition


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member: “Ever since he was announced, I have been hearing from alarmed constituents who care about their rights under the Second Amendment. [David] Chipman seems to have worked for every prominent gun control group in the country. He’s been described by CNN as, ‘a fierce advocate for gun control.’ There isn’t a liberal hobbyhorse on guns that he hasn’t ridden, whether it’s misleading the public about modern sports rivals arguing against popular magazine sizes or advocating for universal background checks. Of particular concern is the contempt with which he seems to view ordinary Americans who buy and carry firearms. … ATF is a significant law enforcement agency. We mostly hear about it when it messes up, whether it’s Waco, Operation Fast and Furious, or the Chicago Stash-house Scandal. But day-to-day, ATF plays a significant role in the legal trade of firearms in this country. Many see putting a committed gun control proponent like Mr. Chipman in charge of ATF 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.” (Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 5/26/2021)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): “After meeting with Mr. Chipman, listening to Mainers, and reviewing his record, I have decided to vote against Mr. Chipman’s nomination to serve as the ATF Director. In recent years, Mr. Chipman has been an outspoken critic of the firearms industry and has made statements that demean law-abiding gun owners. Although he has the right to express his views, I believe this history makes him an unusually divisive pick for this important position. In particular, I am concerned that his confirmation would do significant damage to the collaborative working relationship that must exist between ATF, the firearms industry, sportsmen and women, and other law-abiding gun owners exercising their Second Amendment rights.” (“Susan Collins: Biden ATF Nominee Chipman ‘Unusually Divisive,’ Will Vote Against Confirmation,” Fox News, 6/22/2021)

“Senate Republicans tore into President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, portraying him as a zealot for gun controls… David Chipman, who served at the Justice Department agency that regulates firearms for almost 25 years and has since worked for groups that advocate tighter gun laws, found himself on the defensive during his confirmation hearing [May 26th] before the Senate Judiciary Committee.” (“Biden’s Pick to Run Gun Agency Draws GOP Senators’ Opposition,” Bloomberg, 5/26/2021)


‘Multiple ATF Sources’ Confirmed The Existence Of A Complaint That Chipman Made Disparaging Racial Comments During His Prior Employment At ATF

“Multiple ATF sources back up the existence of a complaint alleging President Biden’s nominee to lead ATF, David Chipman, made racist comments during his previous stint at the agency. The agents, who have decades of experience at the agency, told The Reload they heard the accusation that Chipman denigrated black ATF agents up for promotion. The officials said they heard about Chipman’s alleged comments before they were referenced in a recent lawsuit seeking the release of the complaint. ‘He made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list,’ a current ATF official told The Reload. ‘So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable.’ A former ATF agent who worked directly with Chipman said he heard the same story. ‘That one had to do with what’s called the assessment center, which would be to get promoted,’ the former agent told The Reload. ‘Somebody would have had to file a complaint against him if he were a supervisor making those statements.’ The current ATF official said the allegation ended his time in Detroit. ‘He left Detroit because of that,’ he said. ‘He did not leave Detroit on the best of terms. His reputation was that he was not nice to people.’” (“ATF Agents Corroborate Existence of Racial Complaint Against Biden Director Nominee, Fear Reprisals and Hit to Agency Effectiveness,” The Reload, 7/28/2021)


Current And Former ATF Officials Raised Concerns About Chipman’s Anti-Gun Activism Harming Agents’ Abilities ‘To Go Out There And Do Our Job’ And That He Has A Reputation As ‘A Bully’

‘He’s Got A Reputation For Being A Bully’ ‘And He Also Has A Pretty Well-Founded Reputation For Being An Activist When It Comes To Gun Control’

“The former and current ATF officials who asked to have their identities withheld said they also worried about reprisals if Chipman is confirmed. ‘The concern with him is he’s got a reputation for being a bully,’ the current official said. ‘And he also has a pretty well-founded reputation for being an activist when it comes to gun control.’ The agents worry Chipman will surround himself with other gun-control supporters instead of building a team with diverse viewpoints. They expressed concern he might even punish agents he doesn’t believe are on board with his vision by reassigning them to far-flung posts. ‘If you’re not going to march to the beat of his drum, there is a concern that you’ll wind up somewhere,’ the current agent said.” (“ATF Agents Corroborate Existence of Racial Complaint Against Biden Director Nominee, Fear Reprisals and Hit to Agency Effectiveness,” The Reload, 7/28/2021)

‘We Have To Have That Relationship’ With Licensed Firearms Dealers To Report Potential Criminal Activity, But ‘You Can’t Have An Anti-Gun Activist … Who’s Targeting The Industry’ Because ‘That Is Going To Have A Chilling Effect’

“[Current and former ATF agents] said Chipman’s reputation for being an anti-gun activist, earned after years of working for some of the most prominent gun-control groups in the country, would impact how closely licensed gun dealers are willing to work with the agency. And that could hinder its ability to put away gun traffickers. ‘A large number of ATF cases come from legitimate gun dealers, who see what they believe to be criminal activity,’ the current agent said. ‘They see what they believe to be a straw purchase, or we’ve had countless cases referred to us where there’ll be a gun show, they’re selling in accordance with their license, they’re following the rules, and they’ll see someone selling where it’s clearly someone who’s abusing the law. I can’t even tell you how many countless cases we’ve gotten that way. So, to have someone come in who potentially could jeopardize that relationship is really concerning to most of the folks who are actually working cases. Those relationships help us put bad people in jail, which in turn, helps us keep the public safe.’ The former agent noted that ATF needs a good relationship with licensed dealers because the agency isn’t getting real-time information about gun sales. ‘There’s no system that alerts ATF,’ he said. ‘The person who has to alert us is that licensed dealer. If they don’t pick up the phone and call us, we’ll never know.’ The agents said an ATF director doesn’t have to be a cheerleader for the industry or treat gun dealers with a light touch to be successful, but purposely creating an adversarial relationship would make building connections with the dealers who tip them off to potential criminals much harder. ‘We have to have that relationship,’ the former agent said. ‘And how could you have a director who’s clearly anti-gun? You don’t have to be pro-gun, but you can’t have an anti-gun activist going after quote “bad dealers” and who’s targeting the industry. That is going to have a chilling effect.’ ‘It’s a delicate balance, and he’s gonna come in and upset that balance,’ the current agent said. ‘Well, it affects us greatly. It affects our abilities to go out there and do our job. And all to score political points?’(“ATF Agents Corroborate Existence of Racial Complaint Against Biden Director Nominee, Fear Reprisals and Hit to Agency Effectiveness,” The Reload, 7/28/2021)

“Chipman is also outside of the norm for an ATF agent, they said. ATF employees, especially field agents, tend to be gun enthusiasts themselves, and most view their job as stopping violent crime rather than instituting restrictive gun-control measures. ‘The reality is we have a bad reputation,’ the current agent said. ‘And part of it is because it helps to drum up membership in certain organizations that think the boogie man is coming to get you guys. I get it. We all get it. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. Almost every agent I’ve ever worked with is pretty apolitical. They take great pride in not being hyper-partisan. So, he’s the exact opposite of what most of us are. And he’s one of only two ATF agents I’ve ever met in my entire life who I perceived to be anti-gun. Most of them are actually quite fond of firearms; they’re just not fond of firearms in the hands of violent criminals. But he has shown a propensity to be anti-gun.’ All three agents also expressed surprise at Chipman’s turn from ATF agent to gun-control activist. The current agent described his views, which include new gun bans stricter than those supported by Senate gun-control champion Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and removing gun-carry protections for retired police officers, as ‘extreme’ and his demeanor ‘unsettling.’ Those who worked with him said his views on guns appeared to change after he left the agency.” (“ATF Agents Corroborate Existence of Racial Complaint Against Biden Director Nominee, Fear Reprisals and Hit to Agency Effectiveness,” The Reload, 7/28/2021)


Over 20 Wildlife-Conservation And Gun-Rights Groups Wrote To The Senate Opposing Chipman’s Nomination, As Have Local Sportsmans’ Groups In Maine And Montana

“A coalition of more than 20 wildlife-conservation and gun-rights groups is opposing President Biden’s choice to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on the basis that the nominee, David Chipman, is ‘weaponizing’ the agency that enforces gun laws in America. Twenty-two members of the 50-member American Wildlife Conservation Partners wrote to Senate leaders [in June] to oppose Chipman’s nomination, a vote on which was scheduled for Wednesday but has been postponed indefinitely. Signers of the letter, including Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, and Wild Sheep Foundation in addition to the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, wrote that ‘our collective opposition to Mr. Chipman’s nomination stems from his long record of radical anti-firearm statements and actions. These give rise to our concern that, if confirmed, Mr. Chipman will take proactive steps to impede gun ownership, hunting and recreational shooting in a manner that detrimentally impacts wildlife conservation and management.’” (“22 Conservation and Gun-Rights Groups Oppose President Biden’s Pick for ATF Director,” OutdoorLife, 6/18/2021)

  • “The 22 organizations that signed the letter to Senate leaders noted that most had never opposed an ATF nominee. However, they wrote, ‘Given Mr. Chipman’s longstanding public activism against our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage, we are compelled to oppose his nomination. Many of us are concerned that confirming a high-ranking official of one of the country’s most prolific anti-gun organizations would politicize a traditionally apolitical bureau. Others fear Mr. Chipman will weaponize the directorship and lead to the undermining of our Second Amendment rights through punitive administrative actions.’” (“22 Conservation and Gun-Rights Groups Oppose President Biden’s Pick for ATF Director,” OutdoorLife, 6/18/2021)

DAVID TRAHAN, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Executive Director: “Sen. Susan Collins recently announced that she will vote against the nomination of David Chipman as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying that she found this nomination to be ‘unusually divisive.’ I couldn’t agree more. As the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I work hard to preserve the rights and freedoms that we all enjoy as Americans. David Chipman, on the other hand, serves as a policy adviser for a national group that advocates for extreme gun control measures. In this role, he has been outspoken. If Mr. Chipman is confirmed to lead ATF, it will politicize a regulatory and law enforcement agency that depends on compliance to protect the public…. putting forward and confirming a political activist to run a law enforcement agency will do irreparable harm to that already-controversial organization.” (David Trahan, Letter to the Editor, “Sen. Collins Right To Oppose Activist ATF Nominee, Portland Press Herald, 6/30/2021)

PATTY EHRHARDT, Great Falls Chapter President of Safari Club International: “President Joe Biden has nominated the paid gun control lobbyist David Chipman to be the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives…. David Chipman has spent years as a paid lobbyist for … one of the largest gun-control groups in the country. His role [there] as well as his personal gun control beliefs lie wildly outside the norm and are an existential threat to the Second Amendment and, by extension, the right of Montanans to hunt. As chapter President and lifetime member of the Great Falls Chapter Safari Club International, I have a duty to our members to make sure Montanans are free to carry on our state’s hunting heritage unobstructed by the gun ban agenda of people like David Chipman.” (Patty Ehrhardt, Op-Ed, Billings Gazette, 7/02/2021)

  • “Chipman has repeatedly advocated for banning Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs), the most popular rifle in the U.S. owned by tens of millions of law-abiding Americans. Contrary to what many politicians might have you believe, MSRs have a wide variety of hunting applications and are enormously popular with recreational shooters…. David Chipman, with his antipathy towards the outdoor sporting community and for the legal, responsible ownership of firearms as outlined by the Second Amendment, has no business leading a law enforcement agency responsible for the regulation of said firearms.” (Patty Ehrhardt, Op-Ed, Billings Gazette, 7/02/2021)


Chipman Has Repeatedly Denigrated Gun Owners, Saying ‘They’re Putting Themselves And Their Families In Danger’ For Simply Owning A Gun, And Implying Gun Ownership Is A Kind Of False Patriotism Or Simply An Act Of Machismo

DAVID CHIPMAN: “In their mind [new gun owners] might be confident. They might think that they’re die-hard, ready to go, but unfortunately they’re more like Tiger King. And they’re putting themselves and their families in danger. And so I would suggest is for those people who were first-time gun owners, if they did go out and buy a gun, I would secure that gun locked and unloaded and hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky that you’ve stored in a cabinet and only bring that out if the zombies start to appear.” (Cheddar, 4/03/2020)

CHIPMAN: “I think there’s also an element for people who chose not to serve [in the military] that this somehow allows them to connect with that service without them having to do it — like you can kind of act patriotic without having to do it.” (“‘I Know I Don’t Need It’ An AR-15 Owner Explains The Allure.,” The Washington Post, 4/08/2018)

CHIPMAN: “I would compare [gun ownership] to the same reason Americans might want a muscle car or enjoy a muscle car: It’s American-made, it has outsized power… American culture that I see most often with men.” (“‘I Know I Don’t Need It’ An AR-15 Owner Explains The Allure.,” The Washington Post, 4/08/2018)


Chipman Has Suggested Extreme Gun Control Measures Such As Banning Private Sales, Using Failed Background Checks To ‘Arrest People Before Committing Crimes,’ And A National ‘Assault Weapon’ Registry

CHIPMAN: “To clarify, I believe all gun sales should be limited to licensed gun stores where a background check and paperwork is required.” (David Chipman, u/David_Chipman, Reddit, 9/10/2019)

CHIPMAN: “While at ATF I conducted studies involving people who failed background checks to determine how many later committed crimes with a gun—many did. This is a perfect opportunity to arrest people before committing crimes rather than responding after the fact.” (David Chipman, u/David_Chipman, Reddit, 9/10/2019)

CHIPMAN: “We currently do not have a reliable count of how many assault weapons are in circulation. Estimates are in the tens of millions. If our goal is to balance the rights of responsible law abiding gun owners and the urgent need to keep particularly dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals, simply reinstating the ‘90s era ban on assault weapons is not enough. One option would be to require the registration of all existing assault weapons in civilian hands under the National Firearms Act, while banning the future manufacturer and sale of these firearms.” (House Judiciary Committee Hearing, 9/25/2019)


Chipman Said He Agrees With Calls ‘To Ban Future Sales And Manufacturing’ Of So-Called ‘Assault Weapons’ But Struggled To Even Define Which Firearms Would Fall Under Such A Ban

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): “Mr. Chipman, also thank you for your service to our country. And I read your testimony and it seems to me that you support a ban on the future sales and manufacturing of assault weapons. Is that right?”
CHIPMAN: “Yeah, similar to what we did in 1986 with machine guns.”
REP. SWALWELL: “And--you know, I hear you and I agree with you as far as the--you know, National Firearms Act and making sure that they’re registered. But would you agree that we want to ban future sales and manufacturing because it’s a dangerous weapon different than a long rifle used for hunting or a pistol used to shoot for sport or a shotgun used to protect someone in their house? That this is just a different weapon?”
CHIPMAN: “Yes, they’re particularly lethal.” (House Judiciary Committee Hearing, 9/25/2019)

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): “You have called for an assault weapons ban. I have a simple question for you. What is an assault weapon?”
CHIPMAN: “Senator, an assault weapon would be, in the context of the question you asked, what congress defines it as.”
SEN. COTTON: “So you’re asking us to ban assault weapons. We have to write legislation. Can you tell me what is an assault weapon? How would you define it if you were the chair--the head of the ATF? How did you define it over the last several years as your role as a gun control advocate?”
CHIPMAN: “Senator, if I’m confirmed as ATF director, you know, my recollection is the only process by which ATF has weighed in is that I know there’s a Demand Letter 3 program which requires multiple reports--multiple sale reports on the southwestern border. And ATF in that program has defined an assault rifle as any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22 which would include a .223 which is, you know, largely the AR-15 round.”
SEN. COTTON: “So you believe that every weapon that takes a detachable magazine that can take a .22 round or .556 in military parlance should be defined as an assault weapon?”
CHIPMAN: “Let me clarify. What I believe I just said is any semi-automatic rifle which—”
SEN. COTTON: “--Okay. Any semi-automatic rifle.”
CHIPMAN: “What—”
SEN. COTTON: “--That’s the defin--so a detachable magazine that takes a .556 or .22 round should be defined as an assault weapon?”
CHIPMAN: “Senator, you asked me if ATF had used this term, and I was sharing with you my knowledge of a program in which ATF has defined this term and it is in the Demand Letter 3 program. And that rifle is a semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine with a round greater than a .22 caliber. And in those cases firearms dealers on the southwest border are required to make a multiple sale report to ATF.”
SEN. COTTON: “I’m amazed that that might be the definition of assault weapon. That would basically cover every single modern sporting rifle in America today. …  I think our exchange here illustrates that there really is no such thing as an assault weapon. That is a term that was manufactured by liberal lawyers and pollsters in Washington to try to scare the American people into believing that the government should confiscate weapons that are wildly popular for millions of Americans to defend themselves, and their families, and their homes.” (Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 5/26/2021)


Chipman Has Called For ‘Comprehensive And Universal Laws’ To Override The Laws Of States That Respect Citizens’ 2nd Amendment Rights

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): “Now, I’m wondering--I mean, when I think about California and the actions taken by the state legislature and governor to make the state safer, do you think state laws are sufficient …?”
CHIPMAN: “We need a national comprehensive approach. … Many of the crime guns in Chicago that we heard talked about earlier are coming from states like Indiana and that’s from firearms trafficking. If we had comprehensive and universal laws and approaches to regulation at the national level, there would not be this interstate travel to go and work around the law. … So, I think that’s why it’s important for us here to be as federal authorities making decisions for the country as a whole.” (House Judiciary Committee Hearing, 9/25/2019)



Related Issues: Second Amendment, Nominations