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President Biden’s ATF Nominee Owes African-American Gun Owners Answers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) owes Americans – particularly African-American gun owners – straight answers over serious and unaddressed allegations. 


Senators weighing David Chipman’s confirmation for ATF director must not vote on this nominee until he releases his personnel records and answers questions concerning allegations in Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints. These complaints, filed by ATF agents in 2007, assert that he made racist remarks about co-workers he now wants to lead.

Specifically, Tom Jones, president of the American Accountability Foundation, says he personally spoke with one agent who claimed Chipman said, “Wow, there were an unusually large number of African-American agents that passed the exam this time. They must have been cheating.”

At that time, Chipman was the assistant special agent-in-charge of the ATF Detroit Field Division. Since no one has produced his personnel files, Jones sued the ATF with two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in May for records of any complaints and disciplinary actions taken against Chipman. So far, there’s been no response.

Chipman glossed over questions posed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) regarding the two EEOC complaints against him as an ATF agent, stating the complaints were “resolved without any finding of discrimination and no disciplinary action was taken against me.” The White House that nominated him for this position of special trust and confidence has not commented on these serious allegations.


These allegations, along with his unwillingness to make public his personnel records, his evasive answers during his confirmation hearing, and his remarks denigrating first-time gun buyers in 2020, disqualify him from public service. Without answers, he’s untrustworthy to lead the ATF, or any other law enforcement agency.

The White House can, and must, do better. President Biden has made equity a central tenet of his administration.   The White House could have nominated Marvin Richardson, who has a proud 32-year law enforcement career, a record of service far longer than Chipman’s. Richardson has worked in nearly every role and facet of the ATF since he started in 1989.

He served at the associate deputy director for close to a decade and took over the ATF as Acting Director when his predecessor, Regina Lombardo, retired. He was awarded the Treasury Department’s Hostile Action Medal for his service in Waco, Texas. Unlike Chipman, he didn’t make wild accusations of .50-caliber rifles downing helicopters that Chipman was later forced to recant as false.  

Richardson is an American success story. He grew up poor as one of 10 children in an African-American home. He graduated college and was a Denton, Texas police officer before joining the ATF. He earned greater responsibilities and duties, with humility and respect for his fellow agents, the firearm industry and gun owners. He’s running the ATF now, yet President Biden overlooked him.


Instead of elevating a superior, far more qualified candidate who happens to be African-American, President Biden nominated a white male. It can only be assumed that Chipman was tapped because he is agun control lobbyist.So much for equity when blatant pandering is apparently a higher White House priority.  

Chipman is notoriously unqualified. He ridiculed the more than 8.4 million first-time gun buyers in 2020 to Cheddar News last year comparing them to “Tiger King.” He mocked new gun owners, telling them to empty their guns and, “Hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky that you’ve stored in the cabinet and only bring that out if the zombies start to appear.”

Chipman’s flippant comments came as African-Americans purchased firearms at a 58 percent higher rate in 2020 than in 2019, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. They weren’t alone. Hispanic-Americans purchased guns at a 47 percent higher rate and Asian-Americans bought guns at a 43 percent increased rate during the same time. They bought guns for self-protection as riots went unchecked and crime soared, not for fictional zombies.

Instead of empowering minorities to exercise their rights, Chipman proposes to make it more difficult. He would ban the most popular selling centerfire rifle in America, the AR-15. Barring that, he testified before Congress that he would severely restrict ownership of these widely owned guns with a scheme including a penalizing mandatory tax, registration, fingerprints, photo submission and notification of chief law enforcement officers. He told senators that law-abiding gun owners are criminals in waiting and advocated they be arrested. 


David Chipman owes answers to all of us. Until he provides them, he must be considered unfit to become ATF director. Today’s gun owners, especially African-Americans who historically have had their gun rights suppressed, deserve better.

Philip Smith is the President of the National African American Gun Association.

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