Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday that “there are a lot of issues” with David Chipman, the White House’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Chipman, who is currently employed as a senior policy adviser to Giffords, a major gun control group, served at the ATF for 25 years and faces a narrow path to confirmation, with uncertain support among Democrats in the evenly divided Senate.
Moderate Democrats including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), haven’t yet indicated whether they will be backing his confirmation. He faced fierce opposition during his confirmation hearing from Republicans who grilled him for his past comments and gun control advocacy.
The whip count “is not where we want it yet, but there’s always a chance,” Durbin told Politico.
The Senate, divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, has approved virtually all of President Joe Biden’s picks in largely narrow votes. Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties through her role as president of the Senate.
“Members understand this is a highly controversial position,” Durbin said. “It has been left vacant because Republicans and Democrats couldn’t find someone to fill the slot so it’s no wonder that we’re having some difficulty with it.”
On May 25, a group of 21 state Attorneys General (AG) in a letter (pdf) urged the State to oppose Chipman’s confirmation, citing his efforts to limit Second Amendment rights.
“The Second Amendment is the cornerstone of the Bill of Rights,” the AGs, led by Montana’s Austin Knudsen wrote. “It guarantees our natural God-given right to defend our lives, our families, our property, and our freedom. The confirmation of David Chipman to head the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is an attack on that right and on the millions of law-abiding gun owners across the country.”
The AGs wrote in their letter that the right to bear firearms is “far beyond a hobby or a passion.”
“They are a part of our national heritage and everyday life for tens of millions of Americans, particularly those of us who live in rural areas. We use them to hunt, protect livestock, and provide peace of mind when law enforcement may be miles away.
“This is why Mr. Chipman’s past affiliation with anti-gun organizations and his extreme positions on commonly owned firearms is so concerning to us as attorneys general and why he is unfit to be confirmed as head of the ATF,” wrote the group.
They concluded their letter by saying that they “demand President Biden nominate someone who is not hostile to our rights and way of life.”