Waco Raid Agent Nominated For ATF Chief; What Biden’s Orders Mean For Gun Rights

Eighty days into his presidency, Joe Biden unveiled six executive orders concerning what he called a “gun violence public health pandemic.”

While the orders may seem relatively innocuous and not as sweeping as an anticipated renewed ban on assault rifles, a look between the lines – including a key appointment of David Chipman for ATF director – foreshadows an aggressive gun control regimen in the making.

Nominee on Payroll of Gun Control Lobby Groups

Chipman was announced as Biden’s nominee as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), which has been under an acting director for nearly six years. The U.S. Senate would have to confirm Chipman for the appointment to go through.

“ATF is the key agency enforcing our gun laws, and it needs a confirmed director in order to do the job to the best of its ability,” a press release from the White House stated. “But ATF has not had a confirmed director since 2015. David Chipman served at ATF for 25 years and now works to advance commonsense gun safety laws.”

Chipman, a now-retired 25-year veteran of the agency, was an agent on the ground during the Branch Davidian raid in Waco in 1993. In more recent years, he supplements his federal pension by working as a senior policy advisor for Gabrielle Gifford’s eponymous organization. As such, he has become the spokesman for the anti-gun left making frequent nationwide media appearances.

Giffords Law Center Senior Policy Advisor David Chipman speaks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Giffords Law Center Senior Policy Advisor David Chipman speaks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington.

In a recent “Ask Me Anything” event on left wing Internet forum Reddit, Chipman called for tighter gun control laws, including restricting gun sales to only those with federal licenses and a ban on “assault rifles.”

In one post, Chipman said, “I believe all gun sales should be limited to licensed gun stores where a background check and paperwork is required.”

“It has been estimated that there are around 15 million assault rifles currently in circulation. I believe we should ban the future production and sale to civilians and afford current owners of these firearms the ability to license these particular guns with ATF under the National Firearms Act,” he wrote.

In other words, he proposes that every AR-style rifle should be subject to an eight-month-or-more background check, including fingerprints, photos, $200 paid to the ATF, and a notice sent to the sheriff of the firearm buyer’s county.

A Closer Look at Biden’s Orders

President Biden’s six executive orders are, at a glance:

  1. U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of 3-D printed firearms (aka. “ghost guns”).
  2. DOJ to issue a proposed rule to clarify when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace turns a pistol into what is effectively a short-barreled rifle, and therefore subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act — a longtime struggle for the ATF. 
  3. DOJ to publish model “red flag” legislation for states to enact. Red flag laws and policies allow a family member, friend, or law enforcement officer to petition a court to temporarily prevent an individual from accessing a gun.
  4. White House will oversee several “Community violence interventions” in the form of various agency proposals to address rising homicide rates in urban areas, including a $5 billion American Jobs Plan.
  5. DOJ to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking, updating a similar report the ATF issued in 2000.
  6. Chipman’s nomination as director of the ATF.

“The recent high-profile mass shootings in Boulder — taking the lives of 10 individuals — and Atlanta — taking the lives of eight individuals, including six Asian American women — underscored the relentlessness of this epidemic,” the White House release stated, addressing the timing of the orders.

Analysis

Ordering reports, model legislation, and the drafting of proposed rules do not make for an aggressive gun-control administration.

But consider the big prize here, though listed last: the nomination of a strongly pro-gun-control ATF director.

Chipman’s high-profile advocacy will make Senate confirmation difficult (a bare majority of 51 votes would be needed), and the Biden Administration is cognizant of that fact. While Biden could have issued a pistol brace definition via executive order or produced a list of “assault weapons” for the Supreme Court to review (among other possibilities), the president instead used the kid gloves on the first five executive orders. This gives the appearance that the Biden Administration will be moderate on gun control measures, granting some level of assurance to Senators who may find themselves on the line come time for confirmation.

Let’s also consider the longer-game strategy here. ATF is an embattled agency if going six years without an official leader is any indication. Republicans have offered several bills to weaken the agency’s power. The agency’s 5,000-plus employees with a $1.3 billion budget can make an overreach by the White House difficult to implement.

To institute top-down reforms at the agency, and in the absence of Republican dominance in Congress, Biden will need a director dedicated to spending the next four to eight years (at least) realigning the agency to accommodate pro-gun control priorities.

It could also be that by floating Chipman’s name as a possible pick, Biden could be softening the blow for a more middle-of-the-road nominee.

Time will tell, but one thing is certain: Without an ATF bureaucracy aligned with the White House, any attempt at reform — be it an executive order, a Congressional bill, or an agency rule — will be prohibitively difficult. Biden and his advisors know very well that omelet can’t be cooked without first breaking a few eggs.

This article originally appeared in International Sportsman.

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