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White House Withdraws ATF Nominee Chipman

David Chipman testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, September 25, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The White House withdrew David Chipman‘s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on Thursday, saying that while he would have been an “exemplary” director, Republicans have “moved in lockstep” to block his confirmation.

“David Chipman spent 25 years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday. “He’s a gun owner himself, and someone who has the backing of law enforcement groups. And, he’s spent most of last decade as a leading voice for commonsense gun violence prevention legislation that will save lives. He would have been an exemplary Director of the ATF and would have redoubled its efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence.”

Biden accused Republicans in Congress of making it “clear that they intend to use gun crime as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it.”

“That’s why they’ve moved in lockstep to block David Chipman’s confirmation, and it’s why they side with gun manufacturers over the overwhelming majority of the American people in opposing commonsense measures like universal background checks,” he said.

Biden said he is “grateful for Mr. Chipman’s service and for his work” and added that he remains “deeply committed” to combating “the scourage of gun violence.”

Chipman, a senior policy advisor to the gun control group Giffords, faced universal opposition from Senate Republicans, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell who asked the White House to withdraw its nomination of the “anti-gun extremist.”

Senator Angus King (I., Maine) told the administration and Senate Democrats that he would not support Chipman’s nomination, while other moderate senators had remained non-committal on the appointment, according to the report.

A senior administration official reportedly told CNN that the White House decided to withdraw the nomination because “we do not have the votes,” adding that it expects to place Chipman in “a non-confirmed job in the administration.”

McConnell commended the decision in a tweet on Thursday.

“Glad to hear reports the White House is taking my advice and pulling the terrible nomination of David Chipman,” he wrote. “Absurd that a vocal opponent of Americans’ constitutional rights was ever picked to run ATF. This is a win for the Second Amendment and law-abiding American citizens.”

Opponents to the nomination had expressed concern over Chipman’s past record on gun control. He spent 25 years at the ATF and, since retiring as a special agent in 2012, has worked as an anti-gun activist for several gun control groups.

He has claimed that he supports bans on “assault weapons” because they are nearly “identical to those used by the military.” However, Chipman declined to define what “assault weapon” meant when asked to do so by Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) during his confirmation hearing.

Chipman argued that the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons had “mixed results,” though studies show that the ban had negligible effect on criminality, which dropped after the law sunsetted.

During the COVID pandemic, he called on American governors to unilaterally shut down gun shops, arguing that “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.”

He also likened first-time gun owners to Joe Exotic of Tiger King, saying, “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 family in danger.”

Moderate Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) warned that Chipman, if confirmed, would likely do “significant damage” to the relationships the ATF has with sporting and gun groups.

The decision comes months after the White House withdrew its nomination of Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget after Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) said he would not support her confirmation over her past tweets attacking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

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