The Biden administration’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives failed to disclose some interviews and events dating back to 2012 on paperwork filed with the Senate for consideration of his nomination.
In one undisclosed 2019 talk given to a law firm titled “Can the Right to Bear Arms Coexist with Gun Control?,” David Chipman said his views and politics weren’t typical of most at the ATF and in law enforcement because the groups were mostly “a very conservative bunch, primarily of white men.”
The comments are notable because Chipman’s nomination has struggled to gain support — even from some members of the Democratic caucus who have yet to commit to his nomination. Senators have questioned if his past record as an advocate for stricter gun laws would make him a less effective director.
Chipman disclosed more than 30 pages of published written works, quotes in news articles, speeches, and testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The undisclosed talks and interviews were found online by CNN’s KFile.
Biden nominated Chipman to head the ATF in April, seeking the first Senate-confirmed director for the agency since 2015 and just the second one in its history. A career official at ATF for 25 years, Chipman became a top adviser with Giffords, a group led by former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords advocating for stricter gun laws that has been criticized by the National Rifle Association and other firearms groups, turning off some moderate Republicans and causing some concern among centrist Democrats.
“If you are authentic in this space you are likely to disappoint a lot of people,” Chipman said in his November 2019 event on gun control at the law firm Cadwalader when asked how ATF agents felt about his work. “I think that we have to understand that law enforcement, generally, is a very conservative bunch, primarily of white men. So, the politics of this issue, as it is, sort of permeate it. I don’t believe my views are typical.”
“I think I can answer it that way,” he continued. “I think that, though, when I do connect with law enforcement, I think the progressive peers of mine are at a place where they understand that on the issue of gun violence, we need sticks, which is law enforcement, some people need to be arrested, but we acknowledge too that we need carrots. That community violence intervention programs work and that we need to do both. We need to give people options.”
The newly-uncovered comments highlight an example of Chipman talking about the demographics and culture within law enforcement and the agency he hopes to lead, which could be problematic for the nominee as some senators have already questioned if his past advocacy would make him less effective as a director.
Chipman referred CNN to the White House for comment. The White House told CNN they still stood by Chipman’s nomination.
“David Chipman has spent decades years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent and has the exact set of skills and experience we need to revitalize the Bureau’s work to crack down on gun trafficking and keep guns out of the hands of criminals — that’s why his nomination has the support of leading law enforcement organizations,” Michael Gwin, a White House spokesman told CNN.
It does not appear, according to CNN’s KFile’s review, that Chipman frequently spoke on the political views of agents at the ATF and law enforcement, and the topic did not come up in his Senate testimony.
“The issue is whether he’s the right guy for the job,” Independent Maine Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, told CNN in July. “My question is whether he can be an effective director. I haven’t decided yet.”
In another undisclosed 2017 interview on Jared Huffman’s “Off the Cuff” podcast, Chipman said the NRA depends on an “un-American” business model that involves making society “less safe.”
“If (the NRA is) no longer selling a lot of guns to sportsmen and hunters and (their) primary business model is you need guns for public safety. Well, then you need an unsafe society to need to buy a gun,” Chipman said. “If your business model depends entirely on people feeling unsafe and scared and need to buy a gun, why would you want to do anything that makes things safer?”
Chipman added he needed to retire from the ATF after 25 years to talk about his views on gun violence “in a way” that would not end him up in jail for speaking to the press without authorization.
The harsh comments from Chipman on the NRA echo previous criticisms he’s made about the organization.
Chipman also did not disclose two appearances he made on CGTN, a Chinese state-owned news company, in 2013 and 2012 discussing shootings and gun control. Other undisclosed interviews included one in 2019 with ABC News affiliate KVUE in Austin, Texas, in which Chipman talked about a roundtable he held with gun owners after the El Paso mass shooting as part of his work with Giffords. He also failed to disclose an interview on the “The Fowler Show” on YouTube in 2013 in which he talked about “red flag” laws and taking guns away from people who pose a threat to society.
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