David Chipman’s nomination to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives may have blown up before there’s even a vote, due to allegations of racist behavior in his past. And yet he still has the support of both New Hampshire U.S. senators, who declined to answer questions about the nominee.
Biden’s pick to head the troubled agency is a former ATF employee and anti-gun lobbyist with a record of supporting gun bans and insulting gun owners, critics say. Now comes news Chipman was the subject of complaints about his treatment of Black co-workers during his previous stint at the agency.
The Second Amendment news site The Reload has confirmed the existence of the complaint, which has been referenced in a lawsuit attempting to make the information public.
“He made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list,” a current ATF official told The Reload. “So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable.”
This is just the latest problem for a nominee who’s yet to garner the support of all 50 Senate Democrats — the minimum Chipman will need for confirmation given the united opposition of Republicans. Not only has Chipman been unable to lock down the support of moderate Democrats Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), he still doesn’t have northeastern liberal Angus King (I-Maine) on board.
And that was before the news of Chipman’s allegedly racist treatment of Black ATF employees.
Interestingly, both New Hampshire Democrats Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen have already publicly endorsed Chipman, despite his anti-gun-rights record. The question now is whether they will continue to back him in the face of these new findings.
Both senators refused to answer questions about their support for Chipman or the new allegations.
“Hassan is on record supporting the nomination of David Chipman,” says Stephen Gutowski of The Reload. “I’m not sure if the accusation he made racist remarks denigrating black ATF agents will make her reconsider or not. It’s probably more likely to give the other Democrats who have yet to come out in support of him pause.”
Local Granite State gun rights advocates tell NHJournal they are watching the Chipman story closely.
“Pro-Second Amendment voters are definitely paying attention to this appointment,” says former state Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg, president of Pro-Gun New Hampshire. “Chipman has been anti-Second Amendment his entire career, and his work with Giffords, Bloomberg, and Everytown makes it clear that he would be going into that role with a clear anti-gun agenda.
“He has a history of ignoring the constitution and I believe that he will work to systematically disarm us, and will go after the most vulnerable first, because they will be the easiest to disarm,” Clegg adds.
But, political strategists ask, does it matter? Hassan’s already established a record of supporting restrictions on gun ownership and a ban on some of the most widely-owned rifles in the state. How many gun issue voters are even willing to consider supporting Hassan next year, particularly if she runs against Gov. Chris Sununu? Sununu has a strong record on gun rights, including signing concealed carry legislation soon after first taking office.
JR Hoell says Hassan’s vote on Chipman absolutely matters. He offers two reasons why.
“First there’s the issue of intensity. There are 40,000 people in New Hampshire who are active on the gun issue. Not just gun owners, but politically active. And they are absolutely aware of this Chipman vote, who they’ve known as an anti-gun activist for years.
“Then there was the new shooters’ class I attended yesterday. There were 16 people, 13 of them women. There’s been a surge of women gun owners since Hassan ran in 2016, particularly in the past year. They may not have been gun activists before, but today they are worried about personal safety. Some of them voted for Hassan before, but their concerns about crime trump the usual politics,” Hoell said.
“This will be a make-or-break decision for Hassan on guns.”
Actually, Hassan is unlikely to cast that vote. Senate Democrats are reportedly urging Biden to withdraw Chipman’s nomination.
“Still not ready for a vote,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters Tuesday. “Let’s just say we’re working it.”
Gutowski agrees the vote may not happen, “But it’s probably too late to reverse whatever political damage she is going to suffer in her re-election bid for supporting him.”
UPDATE: On Thursday, The Reload reported Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on President Biden to withdraw Chipman’s nomination in response to the allegations. He said the claims combined with Chipman’s history of supporting strict new gun laws made him unworkable as an ATF director.
“In light of these credible allegations, and Mr. Chipman’s long record of anti-Second Amendment extremism, the President must withdraw Mr. Chipman’s nomination,” McConnell told The Reload.