Biden to nominate gun control advocate as ATF director

Former ATF agent and Giffiords policy advisor David Chipman testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in 2019
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President Biden is expected to nominate David Chipman, an adviser at the gun control group Giffords, to serve as his director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), multiple people familiar with the plans confirmed Wednesday. 

Chipman spent more than two decades as a special agent working for ATF and currently works as a senior policy adviser for Giffords, a gun control group formed by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who survived a 2011 mass shooting at a shopping center outside Tucson.

The Associated Press and Washington Post first reported on Chipman’s expected nomination to lead ATF, a federal law enforcement body housed within the Department of Justice.

A senior administration official subsequently confirmed Biden’s plans, pointing to Chipman’s extensive experience as an ATF agent.

“He has 25 years of experience at the ATF. He helped with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Oklahoma City bombing investigations. He has overseen complex firearm trafficking cases. Most recently, he has worked to advance common sense gun safety policies. There is no one better to lead ATF right now. He will help the federal government better enforce our gun laws while also protecting the Second Amendment,” the official said on a call with reporters.

If confirmed, Chipman would be the first permanent director of ATF since 2015. His nomination was welcomed by gun safety advocates and comes as Biden is preparing a series of executive actions on guns.

“President Biden’s actions are historic and they will have an immediate impact. These are tangible and powerful policies that will save lives,” said Brady president Kris Brown. “These executive actions, coupled with President Biden’s prudent nomination of David Chipman to serve as Director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mark a historic day for gun violence prevention in America.”

Biden is expected to announce the executive actions to curb gun violence on Thursday. Representatives from gun safety groups are expected to attend the announcement.

The announcements will come just shy of a month after Merrick Garland was confirmed as attorney general.

Biden has been under pressure to take action to address gun violence in the wake of multiple mass shootings last month, including one that targeted massage parlors in the Atlanta area and another at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that killed 10 people.

Chipman will need to be confirmed by the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats have a slight edge with Vice President Harris breaking tie votes.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) commended Chipman’s qualifications in a statement reacting to reports of his nomination on Wednesday.  

“David’s extensive law enforcement experience, including twenty-five years at the agency he’s been nominated to lead, is exactly what ATF needs after six years without a permanent director,” said Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “David has not only served on the front-lines in the fight against gun violence, he knows the policies of prevention backwards and forwards. ATF needs permanent leadership, having had only one Senate-confirmed director since 2006. I look forward to quick Senate action on this nomination.”

—Updated at 8:12 p.m.

Tags ATF atlanta shooting Boulder shooting Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives David Chipman Gabby Giffords Gun reform gun safety gun violence Joe Biden Mass shootings Merrick Garland Tucson shooting
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