A few potentially bad apples could spoil the bunch. That is essentially the logic that David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE or ATF) apparently believes.
During his Senate confirmation hearings, Chipman testified that he believes that some “law-abiding” gun owners could potentially become violent, and therefore further restrictions on all gun owners should be deemed necessary.
Chipman, who served in the ATF for twenty-five years, has since been a policy advisor for multiple gun control groups including Everytown for Gun Safety and most recently at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. According to his bio, which is still present on the Giffords.org website, his expertise includes “Ghost Guns, Gun Industry, Law Enforcement, Assault Weapons.”
During the confirmation hearings, Chipman was asked by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about his stance on the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.
“The Supreme Court has recognized that right. I’m a gun owner myself, and the answer is yes,” Chipman replied, The Washington Examiner reported.
“And is a law-abiding gun owner a threat to public safety in your view,” Cornyn questioned.
“If the term ‘law-abiding’ means someone has lawfully possessed a gun, there are often occasions that that person then goes on to commit a violent crime,” Chipman responded. “If you’re just saying, ‘Characterize the majority of gun owners,’ the majority of gun owners are law-abiding.”
The Texas Senator also pressed the issue, and used the Steven Spielberg film The Minority Report, which was based on a Philip K. Dick story as an example. In the story, a special police unit actually arrests individuals before a crime is committed.
“You said that some of them may go on to commit crimes, but so far we are not living, I guess, in the movie The Minority Report where we have the capacity or ability to investigate pre-crimes,” Cornyn said. “So what restrictions would you place on the right of a law-abiding citizen to keep and bear arms under the second amendment?”
Chipman responded that if he was confirmed as ATF director, it is the ATF’s responsibility to primarily enforce the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act – but added, “And our priority will be focusing on people who break federal laws and attempt to intervene before they kill someone, so that is a balance that we need to strike. But again, the Constitution is the guardrail to that activity.”
Chipman was also pressed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), about remakes that the nominee made about those who failed background checks, and whether those individuals should then be investigated by law enforcement as being a potentially violent criminal.
“When you said, ‘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,’ I find this statement very troubling,” Lee noted.
“Especially troubling for someone who has been nominated to serve as the ATF director, because even setting aside for a minute the Second Amendment…this violates our most fundamental rules of due process,” Lee added.
Chipman claimed he was taken out of context, and said he was referring to those individuals who lied on a federal firearms form by not mentioning that they had previously committed a felony.
Support for an AR Ban
During the confirmation hearing, Chipman was also questioned by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the issue of the AR-15, Newsweek reported.
“The AR-15 is one of, if not the most popular rifle in America. It’s not a machine gun, it’s a rifle,” Sen Cruz noted directly. “Your public position is that you want to ban AR-15s, is that correct?”
Chipman was equally direct, “With respect to the AR-15, I support a ban as has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president. The AR-15 is a gun I was issued on ATF’s SWAT team and it is a particularly lethal weapon, and regulating it as other particularly lethal weapons I have advocated for.”
Chipman stopped short of saying he would push for such a ban.
“As ATF director, if I’m confirmed, I would simply enforce the laws on the books, and right now there is no such ban on those guns.”
After the confirmation hearing began, it was reported that several people had been killed in a shooting in San Jose, California.
“If I’m confirmed as ATF director, one of our priorities at ATF will be focusing on gun trafficking, the unlawful of legal guns to criminals, and perhaps in this case a crime like this can be prevented,” Chipman said. “So as ATF tries to solve crimes, we’ll have to strive just as hard to prevent them from ever happening in the first place.”
Chipman’s nomination has been largely opposed by groups that support the Second Amendment.
“It’s hard to imagine choosing a nominee who is more hostile to the rights of American gun owners than Chipman,” the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) said in a statement. “Chipman is a Gun Control Extremist.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.