David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), doesn’t possess a rudimentary understanding of the Second Amendment — which, considering this job, seems like a problem.
A couple of years ago, in reaction to local governments in Virginia declaring “Second Amendment sanctuary,” Chipman wrote a column in the Roanoke Times arguing that the “Second Amendment envisions firearms as being ‘well regulated,’ and individual sheriffs aren’t entitled to decide whether a particular regulation is constitutional — that’s the job of the courts.”
Of course, there is not a shred of historical evidence that the Second Amendment “envisions” the state inhibiting and restricting the ability of law-abiding citizens to own any firearms. That said, courts have already ruled on the question. Chipman may not have heard about the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, but it found that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms unrelated to an individual’s membership in a militia. Now, I understand some people get excited when they see the phrase “well regulated,” but it was a common term in the late 18th century that meant “working well,” not, “Hey, let’s make more laws.” But even if it did mean that, the term is aimed at militias, not individuals.
Since Chipman ignores the high court, it’s unsurprising that he advocates not only a complete ban of certain semi-automatic rifles — guns by any definition “in common use by law-abiding citizens” — but also wants existing AR-15 owners to register their weapons with the federal government.
To achieve this, Chipman, senior policy adviser for the gun-restrictionist group Giffords — and before that, a member of Mike Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” — is constantly scaremongering about AR-15s. In a 2018 interview, for instance, Chipman told the Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball, “I don’t think you should be able to anonymously purchase 20 AR-15s at one time, and the government shouldn’t know. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all that you have to pass a background check to own a weapon of war.” In 2019, Chipman told a House Judiciary Committee that “assault weapons” were virtually “identical to those used by the military.”
You may have a whole bunch of reasons you want to ban AR-15s, but that will never make these guns into “weapons of war.” Moreover, AR-15s are rarely used in crimes — which, as a former ATF agent, Chipman surely knows. And the vast majority of AR-15 owners go through background checks, just as the recent mass shooters in Colorado and Georgia did. It is unknown why it matters if a person owns three or 20 AR-15s, or at what speed he purchases those guns, though I am certain it is none of the ATF director’s business.
What Chipman, like many gun grabbers, does is try to shock people with irrelevant and misleading outliers. In a recent Reddit AMA, for example, Chipman, who worked as a case agent in the Branch Davidian trial, falsely claimed that the cultists murdered by the ATF in Waco had shot down two government helicopters with “.50 caliber Barretts.” Big news if true! Chipman also had brought up this imaginary event as he tried to blame American gun owners for the drug-cartel violence in Mexico.
Then again, name any gun-control effort, and Chipman is for it. He wants to ban tens of millions of magazines. In 2017, he testified against the Hearing Protection Act. Chipman urged governors to unilaterally shut down gun shops during the pandemic. “If we can imagine how horrible this crisis is . . . the people who hoarded the guns might decide six months from now — once they see no zombies around but they’ve run out of tuna and beef jerky — that they need the money to buy food,” Chipman sneered last March. This wasn’t the first time Chipman mocked gun owners as “zombie”-obsessed slaw-jawed yokels. It turned out, though, that gun owners hadn’t changed their minds. The spike in buying would ratchet up throughout the pandemic — fueled, in part, by millions of first-time owners, women, and minorities. I suspect Chipman’s nomination will continue to stimulate this positive trend.
It should be noted that Chipman does meet Biden’s standards. We now have an energy secretary who is against affordable energy, a transportation secretary who is against efficient travel, and perhaps soon an ATF director who wants to gut Second Amendment protections.