President Biden has had little trouble getting even the most controversial nominees confirmed.
Democrats have voted in unison, with only Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to head his budget office, facing bipartisan opposition. But the White House is pulling out all the stops to push through David Chipman’s confirmation to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). And Democrats want the vote to take place this week.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claims that the largely Republican opposition to Chipman “speaks volumes to their complete refusal to tackle this spike in crime we’ve seen over the last 18 months.” Of course, the Biden administration’s focus on gun control to control violent crime ignores that 92% of violent crime has nothing to do with guns. But with Democrats controlling the Senate, they don’t need any Republican votes to confirm him.
The problem appears to be Maine’s Angus King, who has privately told the White House that he is leaning against the nomination. Predictit, an online betting website, has the odds that Chipman’s nomination will fail at 80%.
While Chipman’s opponents have raised concerns about him lying to Congress and claims of discrimination regarding black recruits to the ATF, there are serious concerns about how Chipman, who has worked for both Michael Bloomberg’s and Gabbie Gifford’s gun control organizations, will regulate the firearms industry.
If you want to know how extremist Chipman’s views are on guns, you can look at his past calls for gun registration and licensing. He refers to the AR-15 “as a particularly lethal weapon,” but while that might convince the media, AR-15s are functionally identical to any small-caliber semi-automatic hunting rifle. It fires the same bullets, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. It is a hunting rifle. It just looks like a military weapon. In his testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing, Chipman defined an assault weapon 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.”
But the ATF doesn’t just enforce the laws passed by Congress. It also determines what items are defined as firearms and whether they comply with the law.
Take stabilizing braces for pistols, which were originally designed to allow wounded and disabled veterans to hold handguns. They are just a strap attached to the gun. Disabled individuals are often viewed as easy targets by criminals, and stabilizers make it easier to defend themselves. Biden wants to classify them the same as machine guns. When the ATF originally approved them during the Obama administration, they did not violate existing law.
Chipman will review past decisions and prevent any new improvements in guns.
Or take Biden’s “zero tolerance” policy towards what he calls “rogue” gun dealers. No policymaker wants dealers to secretly sell guns to criminals out of the back of their store. But that is not what Biden is going after. Even one mistake in paperwork, no matter how trivial and inconsequential, now means the loss of their license and the end of their business. When Biden talks about 5% of the gun dealers selling 90% of the guns found at crime scenes, he ignores that 5% sell over 90% of the guns. He ignores that less than 0.1% of guns are used in a crime in any given year, and that guns stop crime about five times more frequently than they commit it.
Chipman will determine what classifies as a mistake by gun dealers.
President Donald Trump never got his ATF nominee confirmed, and the position has remained vacant for six years. Yet, amazingly, Democratic Senators such as Montana’s Jon Tester and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin haven’t come out against Chipman’s nomination.
Biden is already pushing through regulations that will make it more difficult and costly for Americans to buy guns for self-defense. With violent crime surging in major cities as prosecutors refuse to prosecute violent criminals, police face budgets cuts, and jails release violent inmates, poor minorities are the very ones who most need protection. But Biden’s policies will prevent these people from being able to defend themselves.
Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and most recently the author of “Gun Control Myths.” Up until January, he worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as senior adviser for research and statistics.