Of course the pro-gun-regulation activist and former Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent President Biden nominated to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives couldn’t pass Senate muster.

David Chipman

David Chipman, then senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center, speaks at a 2019 House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons. The Biden administration recently withdrew the  nomination of Chipman, a former federal agent, to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Andrew Harnik/Associated Press. File

What do you expect, a critic of Big Tech to take over the Federal Trade Commission? A champion of investor protections to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission? A lifelong advocate for safer roads and skies to sit atop the National Transportation Safety Board? Someone with a strong record of safeguarding our air, water and climate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency? Those questions are facetious; we fortunately have all of those officials in place, among many other regulators who’ve proven they have the gumption to take on entrenched interests to protect the public interest.

Guns stand alone. After the firearm industry howled at the top of its lungs and Republicans and some pro-gun Democrats and independents (we see you, Joe Manchin and Jon Tester and Angus King) followed their lead, Biden pulled David Chipman’s nomination.

Chipman’s unpardonable sin was, after serving 25 years as a decorated ATF agent, going to work for Gabby Giffords’ firearm safety organization and others, where he argued for (egad!) expanded background checks and (double egad!) a ban on military-style assault rifles and (triple egad!) stricter federal gun trafficking enforcement to prevent cities from being overrun by illegal handguns. In other words, he was poised to use his intimate familiarity with the inner workings of the ATF to help prevent deadly weapons from falling into dangerous hands.

So this is where we are in America in 2021, even as the nation endures a sickening spike in gun violence: A man with exemplary credentials and the determination to prevent more carnage cannot lead the federal agency whose mission is “to protect communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations” and “the illegal use and trafficking of firearms.”

Is it any wonder the 81 percent of us who want universal background checks and the two-thirds of us who want assault weapons banned are at the end of our rope?


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