By Kerry Picket
David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives nominee, testified Wednesday that a “law-abiding” gun owner can potentially become violent so further restrictions on all gun owners are necessary.
Attorneys General in 22 states have called on the U.S. Senate to oppose David Chipman’s confirmation as director of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), citing the efforts of the president’s nominee to restrict second amendment rights.
Chipman, a 25-year veteran of the ATF who later left the agency in 2012 to become a senior adviser to all major gun control organizations, was asked by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn if he recognized an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.
“The Supreme Court has recognized that right. I’m a gun owner myself, and the answer is yes,” Chipman replied.
“And is a law-abiding gun owner a threat to public safety in your view?” Cornyn pressed.
“If the term ‘law-abiding’ means someone has lawfully possessed a gun, there are often occasions that that person then goes on to commit a violent crime,” Chipman responded. “If you’re just saying, ‘Characterize the majority of gun owners,’ the majority of gun owners are law-abiding.”
Cornyn then asked what the role of the ATF or the federal government is in terms of “restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners to keep and bear arms.”
“You said that some of them may go on to commit crimes, but so far we are not living, I guess, in the movie The Minority Report where we have the capacity or ability to investigate pre-crimes,” Cornyn said. “So what restrictions would you place on the right of a law-abiding citizen to keep and bear arms under the second amendment?”
“If I’m confirmed as ATF Director, it’s ATF’s responsibility to primarily enforce the National Firearms Act, the Gun Control Act,” Chipman said. “And our priority will be focusing on people who break federal laws and attempt to intervene before they kill someone, so that is a balance that we need to strike. But again, the Constitution is the guardrail to that activity.”
Chipman was later questioned by Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, about remarks he made about those who previously failed background checks and whether they should be investigated by law enforcement as potentially violent criminals.
“When you said, ‘While at ATF, I conducted studies involving people who failed background checks to determine how many later committed crimes with a gun, many did, this is a perfect opportunity to arrest people before committing crimes, rather than responding after the fact,’ I find this statement very troubling,” Lee said. “Especially troubling for someone who has been nominated to serve as the ATF director, because even setting aside for a minute the Second Amendment…this violates our most fundamental rules of due process.”
Chipman defended his 2019 comments, saying people took them out of context and that he referred to people who lie on the federal firearms form by not mentioning they are have previously committed a felony on the form.