President Biden tapped David Chipman to guide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in half as a result of the two-decade bureau veteran has few qualms about taking over the gun foyer in blunt, confrontational and unapologetic phrases.
On Wednesday, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee seized on Mr. Chipman’s scathing feedback — together with an interview in which he likened the frenzied shopping for of weapons through the pandemic to “zombie apocalypses” — in hopes of sinking his nomination.
“Many see that putting a committed gun control proponent, like David Chipman, in charge of A.T.F. is like putting a tobacco executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, or antifa in charge of the Portland police department,” Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the highest Republican on the panel, stated throughout Mr. Chipman’s affirmation listening to.
The choice of Mr. Chipman to guide the federal company tasked with imposing the nation’s gun legal guidelines and rules is not any run-of-the-mill personnel transfer, because the amped-up rhetoric of Mr. Grassley and different conservatives vividly illustrated.
The bureau has emerged as a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s response to gun violence sweeping the nation, an improvised coverage more and more reliant on govt motion as Congress debates payments to develop background checks and impose new restrictions on assault rifles.
If confirmed, Mr. Chipman would turn out to be solely the second everlasting director of the A.T.F. for the reason that place grew to become topic to Senate affirmation 15 years in the past. He would inherit an company significantly depleted by the National Rifle Association’s campaign to undermine the bureau and hobble its core legislation enforcement and regulatory capabilities.
News alerts of a shooting in San Jose, Calif., that killed at least eight people started pinging on senators’ telephones moments into the listening to, if lawmakers wanted any reminder of how excessive the stakes have been.
“It is not lost on me that there is another mass shooting,” stated Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.
Mr. Chipman spent over 20 years in the A.T.F. as a particular agent, serving in the bureau’s Detroit discipline workplace and Washington headquarters. Over the previous couple of years, he has labored as a marketing consultant to gun management organizations based by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Michael R. Bloomberg, the previous mayor of New York.
On Wednesday, Mr. Chipman reiterated his assist for common background checks and restrictions on assault rifles, whereas pledging to bolster the bureau’s underfunded gun trafficking and inspection models.
Republicans, who view an empowered A.T.F. as a risk to the Second Amendment rights of gun house owners, countered by portraying Mr. Chipman as a zealot, peppering him with questions on his previous statements.
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, grilled Mr. Chipman for saying in jest in an interview last year that some first-time gun consumers have been getting ready “for end-times scenarios and zombie apocalypses.”
Mr. Chipman, who struggled to keep away from prolonged back-and-forth arguments with Republicans, responded by saying that he had been making an attempt to highlight the pointless hoarding of weapons and known as his remarks “self-deprecating.”
He additionally deflected questions on his progressive coverage advocacy — refusing, as an illustration, to supply a definition for an assault weapon — repeatedly saying he seen himself as “a cop,” not as a lawyer or a lawmaker.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, questioned Mr. Chipman on whether or not he would assist a ban on AR-15-type weapons, which he stated have been among the many “most popular” weapons in the nation.
“With respect to the AR-15, I support a ban,” Mr. Chipman stated, including that Mr. Biden had already expressed assist for a Democratic invoice to limit the gross sales of such weapons.
The reply didn’t fulfill Mr. Cruz. But Mr. Chipman tried to defuse the stress by thanking him for “offering me a Dr Pepper” throughout a gathering in the senator’s workplace the day earlier than.
The N.R.A. has mounted a coordinated marketing campaign to sink Mr. Chipman’s nomination. And over time, the gun foyer has basically exercised veto energy over the appointment of everlasting management on the bureau, blocking a number of would-be administrators, together with a conservative police union official chosen for the put up by President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Biden’s choice of Mr. Chipman got here after an intense lobbying marketing campaign by gun security organizations, led by Ms. Giffords, Mr. Bloomberg and different gun management activists who recognized him as their best choice for the job quickly after November’s election.
The White House was initially reluctant to pick a nominee who would provoke such intense opposition, however Mr. Biden determined he wanted to make a daring transfer after the mass killings in the Atlanta area and Boulder this 12 months, White House officers stated.
The affirmation of Mr. Chipman isn’t assured. White House officers consider that he has simply sufficient votes — 50 to 52 in their estimate, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker if wanted — to beat near-unanimous opposition by Republicans.
It isn’t even clear if Democrats have the votes essential to clear him out of the committee with out resorting to procedural maneuvers.
But two important Democratic swing votes, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have informed Democratic leaders that they’re more likely to assist his nomination, offered the hearings go effectively. Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, haven’t dominated out supporting him.
If not particularly candy, Mr. Chipman’s listening to on Wednesday was, not less than, quick.
Committee Democrats crammed in his listening to with 4 different nominees — limiting the period of time any senator might query Mr. Chipman. The format additionally pressured Republicans to interrupt off assaults in the event that they needed to question the opposite nominees, who included Mr. Biden’s picks to guide the Drug Enforcement Administration and the prison division of the Justice Department.
As a consequence, Mr. Chipman spent comparatively little time addressing particular steps he would possibly take if confirmed. One exception: He vowed to “get to the bottom” of the numerous drop-off in inspections of gun sellers in 2020, which A.T.F. officers have attributed to the difficulties of conducting operations through the pandemic.
But the listening to was itself redefined by the identical type of numbing outrage that prodded Mr. Biden to select Mr. Chipman in the primary place, a mass capturing.
“If I’m confirmed as A.T.F. director, one of our priorities at A.T.F. will be focusing on gun trafficking, the unlawful transfer of legal guns to criminals, and perhaps in this case a crime like this could be prevented,” Mr. Chipman stated when requested to touch upon the carnage in San Jose.