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Biden To Nominate Gun Control Advocate, Law Enforcement Veteran To Lead ATF

David Chipman speaks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in 2019. President Biden is nominating Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Andrew Harnik
David Chipman speaks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in 2019. President Biden is nominating Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Updated April 8, 2021 at 4:56 PM ET

President Biden will nominate David Chipman, adviser to a major gun control group, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an agency that plays a key role in gun regulations.

The White House announced Chipman's nomination Wednesday night, as Biden announced that the Justice Department will pursue new regulations targeting stabilizing braces and so-called ghost guns, weapons that can, in some cases, be assembled at home and lack serial numbers.

"As a father, public servant, gun owner, and decorated law enforcement professional Chipman has spent his life serving the public, combating violent crime, and striving to make our nation and our communities safer every day," the White House said in a statement on Thursday.

Chipman is a veteran of ATF, where he spent 25 years as a special agent. He currently works as a senior policy adviser at Giffords, an organization that advocates for stricter gun laws and is led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was gravely wounded in a mass shooting in 2011. As part of Giffords' group, Chipman has pushed for greater regulation of ghost guns.

Giffords praised Chipman's nomination in a statement Thursday as the "perfect choice" for ATF director.

While at ATF, Chipman disrupted firearms trafficking conspiracies along the Iron Pipeline, a route that's used to smuggle weapons between Southern states and New York, and served on the agency's SWAT team equivalent.

If confirmed, he would be the agency's first permanent director since 2015.

"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 White House fact sheet on the initiatives said.

Chipman has advocated for the federal government to strike a balance that allows law-abiding citizens to own guns for self-defense, hunting and sport while also enabling law enforcement to prevent gun violence.

In a 2019 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee following mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Chipman described that balance as one between "the rights of individuals and the rights of all Americans, and a human right not to get shot."

"Our nation's current gun violence crisis has made two things very clear: one, it is far too easy for violent people to get their hands on violent weapons," he said. "Two, the American people overwhelmingly want Congress to act now to make their communities safer."

He added that although all weapons can be dangerous in "the wrong hands," certain firearms are particularly lethal and should be more strictly regulated.

Chipman will need 51 votes to be confirmed in a narrowly divided Senate. The position has historically been difficult to fill; former President Donald Trump had to withdraw his own nominee for the spot last year amid concerns from fellow Republicans.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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