ATF Director Nominee David Chipman Wants to Confiscate AR-15 Rifles

Gun-control groups lobbying the divided Senate

David Chipman is a professional gun-control advocate who Pres. Biden wants to run the agency that takes away guns. At least they aren’t keeping their agenda secret anymore. 

The nominee for ATF director was exposed in his Senate hearing on Tuesday as even more radical than Biden in his gun-grabbing goals. Both sides of the gun issue are lobbying hard over Chipman getting through the Democratic-controlled Senate and taking over ATF. 

Chipman is a retired ATF agent who works for the Gabby Giffords’s gun-control group that is funded by Mike Bloomberg. Democrats knew they need to keep Chipman hidden until the floor vote, so the Senate Judiciary Committee majority snuck him in with four other presidential appointees to limit his exposure. Republicans complained it wasn’t enough time, but they have no power.

The committee chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) started by saying to Chipman,  “Buckle your seat belt. You want to be the head of the ATF? Hang on tight. They’re comin’ after you buddy.”

"David Chipman is being squished into a hearing with four other nominees so Durbin can try to squeak him through,” Mark Oliva from NSSF said. They’re trying to shield him."

From his big chairman’s position, Durbin encouraged Chipman. “You’re gonna have to try to weather this storm,” he said. “It’s gonna be rough from time to time.”

Well, it was rough as soon as the Republicans got their turns to ask questions. 

Gun Confiscation

“The AR-15 is one of the most popular, if not the most popular rifle in America. It’s not a machine gun. It’s a rifle. You want to ban the AR-15?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

[Full disclosure: I ran the media and communications for the Cruz for Senate campaign in 2018 against Beto O’Rourke. I’ve always seen eye to eye with Ted on the Second Amendment.]

Chipman tried to weasel out of his public position that he wants to regulate AR-15 style rifles under the National Firearm Act as if they are fully automatic guns. 

“I support a ban as has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president,” said Chipman. “It’s a particularly lethal weapon and regulating it as other particularly lethal weapons - I have advocated for.”

“So you want to ban the most popular rifle in America?” asked Cruz. The Lone Star State Senator pointed out that a “super majority” in the Senate (60) had voted against the “assault weapon ban” the last time it came to the floor. He was showing how Chipman is far out of the mainstream.

Then Cruz pointed out that the Justice Department had studied the AWB that was in law from 1994 to 2004 and reported it had no impact on violent crime. 

“I am not familiar with this study,” Chipman said from below at the witness table. 

Cruz, the former Supreme Court lawyer, had trapped him:  “You told me last night in the office that you were not aware of any data -- that the data was ‘mixed’ -  I think was the term you used.” Cruz and the other senators had met one on one with Chipman before the hearing. 

“I think it was mixed. I stand by that remark,” said Chipman. 

“You told me last night that Feinstein’s [assault weapon] bill didn't go far enough,” Cruz said, as he set his trap.  Chipman fell into it. 

“Sen. Feinstein’s bill does not address those firearms that are currently in the possession of Americans. And then I did share with you my view as an advocate, that those firearms could be treated under NFA and regulated that way,” said Chipman. 

Cruz made it clear to those watching what Chipman was really saying. “You don't just want to ban the manufacture of those rifles. You don't want to make it illegal to sell those rifles.  But you want to actively have the government go after the people who currently possess firearms. And if they don't register and submit to all the onerous restrictions of the National Firearms Act, you want to confiscate their weapons.”

“As an advocate, I prefer a system in which the AR-15 and other weapons are registered under the National Firearms Act,” replied Chipman. 

Swing Senate Votes

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents the firearms industry, is leading the lobbying against Chipman. NSSF is pressuring these senators who haven’t said how they will vote on Chipman’s nomination: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The other Arizona senator, Democrat Mark Kelly is married to Giffords, so he is literally paying Chipman. Kelly has not said he will recuse himself. 

Meanwhile, Giffords and money bags Mike Bloomberg are spending $150,000 on ads to lobby those swing senators to vote for their guy. The ads on TV and digital platforms this week in the Washington, DC media market portray Chipman as seemingly just an experienced member of law enforcement and patriot. 

“His experience and background are second to none,” a retired ATF agent named Mark Jones says in the ad. “I would go through a door with David Chipman anytime.” Unless you look at the last slide, you can’t tell from the ads that it’s paid advertising from gun-control groups.

Chipman hasn’t tried to hide his gun grabbing positions. His profile on Linkedin has his current job as “Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords - Courage to Fight Gun Violence”  where he has worked since May 2016.  The organization was founded by Giffords and her husband Kelly after she was shot.

Giffords must have gotten Chipman from Bloomberg because Chipman used to be senior advisor for “Everytown for Gun Safety” from 2012 to 2013 when it was called “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.” In that role,  Chipman writes on his profile: 

Immediately following the Newtown shootings at the end of 2012, both print and broadcast media drew repeatedly upon my expertise in their coverage related to gun violence. Print media outlets included the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and others. In broadcast media, I have been interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered, Chris Matthews' Hardball, and Tamron Hall's News Nation.

Republican Opposition

In the Senate confirmation hearing, Republicans were frustrated that they had so little time to find out this information. Sen. Chuck Grassley asked Chipman if he was going to turn over the information on Hunter Biden allegedly perjuring himself on a FBI background check to buy a handgun. Chipman said he would. 

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said he watched a video “several times” of Chipman getting interviewed on Cheddar about the millions of first time gun owners from the pandemic. “You openly mocked first time gun owners-- saying they were more like Tiger King,” said Lee. He said that Chipman told them to hide their gun behind cans of tuna and beef jerky and only bring it out if the  zombies appear.

“It concerns me that you, as the nominee for director of ATF, would have such a flippant, and if I may say, so utterly condescending attitude toward first-time gun owners in this country,” said Lee. The senator pointed out that the NSSF numbers show these new gun owners are increasingly women, blacks and Asians. “Why would you choose to insult so many fellow Americans with a statement like this for purchasing a gun?” asked Lee.

Chipman said he was misunderstood and taken out of context. (The video link is at the bottom so you can watch and judge for yourself.) The ATF director nominee then said that he was using self-deprecating humor because he was talking about himself. Under oath, Chipman said he keeps his guns behind tuna and beef jerky. He said his point was that, “Sometimes bringing a gun into your home, if  you’re untrained, is a particularly dangerous thing to do.”

Democrats’ Marching Orders 

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein brought up the terrible mass shooting in San Francisco that was happening at the same time as the hearing., “I’ve been listening to these questions for 20 years now, and nothing changes on the streets,” said the California Democrat. “This is a gun happy nation. And everybody can have their gun, but what is happening out there and the killing of innocents should be protected by the law. But unfortunately we are not making the laws that will  protect people from these gun crimes.”

Feinstein then said that “as gun sales are spiking across the country,” the ATF had decreased its inspection of licensed gun dealers to only 15 percent. Chipman said he would work toward meeting the ATF goal for inspecting dealers every three years. “If confirmed, I'll get to the bottom of this situation,” he said. 

“If you don't, you’re going to hear from me,” replied Feinstein. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who recently held a hearing on ghost guns to push his legislation to regulate them, asked Chipman for his position. Remember the ATF has proposed Biden’s rules for “ghost guns” which will go into effect in a couple months. 

Blumenthal said that the ATF attempted to trace 23,000 ghost guns from 2016 to 2021 and only 151 traces could be completed, which is less than 1 percent. “What happens in investigations when guns cant be traced?” the senator asked.

“What happens is that the case is very difficult to solve,” Chipman responded. “Certainly tracing a serial number of a product is critical. It’s how we solved the World Trade Center bombing and Oklahoma City bombing. So it’s absolutely essential to law enforcement to be able to trace a gun.”

Blumenthal followed up that, “Now people can actually assemble these guns out of their homes, make them out of plastics on machines.” (He’s deliberately conflating the issue with 3D printing which is not about crime to make it sound more dangerous. Blumenthal knows it’s easy to confuse the public because they don’t understand the “ghost guns” issue and only a small minority make their own guns at home.) 

Biden picked a radical gun nut who is opposed to Second Amendment rights and supports gun confiscation to run the ATF.  Everyone in DC thinks Chipman will get the votes and be confirmed. The only way to stop him is for gun owners around the country to call their senators who have not yet said how they would vote and tell them to keep the ATF under restraint and hands off their guns. 


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David Chipman Linkedin Page

NSSF materials:

Giffords materials:

NRA ILA website on how to lobby against Chipman

Senate hearings videos and materials:

Bloomberg materials:


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