Gun Laws & Legislation

Answering The False Narrative In The Chipman Analysis

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By Larry Keane

The truth is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. That’s become apparent after several media outlets examined why David Chipman couldn’t gain support in the U.S. Senate to be confirmed as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Media believed Chipman was the cure-all to push gun control. He was their gun control medicine man – a shaman who would usher in the gun control fix. Except he wasn’t. He’s more of a gun control advocate than a law enforcement policy guru. He never gained support even among Democratic senators. He wasn’t a serious contender for a serious role.

That’s a fact some in the media just can’t stomach.

Beast’s ‘Besties’ Claim

Take the latest column in The Daily Beast by Eleanor Clift. Clift’s piece is behind a paywall, so here’s the gist to save you money. Clift claims Chipman’s nomination was sunk by a too-powerful gun lobby that played fast and loose with the facts on Chipman. Clift quoted an unnamed source saying, “It was a total smear campaign,” and offered the debunked photo published by The Daily Mail of an individual in front of the burned remains of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

NSSF included the alleged photo in a blog post, noting it was alleged, but unproven to be Chipman. The photo was removed when it was clear it wasn’t Chipman. Chipman, nor Giffords gun control for which Chipman was a lobbyist, nor The White House ever denied it was him until his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. NSSF removed the photo before the hearing.

Clift, however, took her opinion column a step further, writing, “Chipman, now in his mid-fifties, spent 25 years as an agent with the ATF, where he worked closely with NSSF’s chief lobbyist, Larry Keane, on building safety training programs, only to see Keane and the NSSF take the lead in circulating a photo with false information about him that they knew was untrue.”

The photo is already explained. While I did know Chipman and harbor no personal animus toward him, the claim that we worked closely together on building training programs is untrue. NSSF developed the Don’t Lie for the Other GuyTM program with ATF leadership long before Chipman came to ATF headquarters. And, he was long gone from headquarters when NSSF and ATF launched the Operation Secure Store® program. While at headquarters he never held an executive level leadership position. He was an assistant Special Agent-in-Charge in Detroit and later a liaison for the ATF’s Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, according to the resume he submitted to Congress. There’s no mention of his work on developing the Don’t Lie program.

Time Slips

Time magazine took their own run at blaming opposition to sinking Chipman’s nomination. They quoted Daniel Webster, a director from Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins, extolling Chipman’s qualifications.

“I could factually say that [Chipman] is about as qualified as anybody has ever been who’s been nominated to head the ATF,” Webster said.

Time added in that the Center for Gun Policy and Research is non-partisan, but failed to mention they’re funded by anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg, to the tune of $3 billion. It’s also no coincidence that Chipman once worked for Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns as a senior policy advisor, and remains an advisor to Bloomberg’s Everytown gun control group according to what he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gun control groups are stammering as they recite false claims that the “gun lobby” refuses to confirm an ATF director. The fact is NSSF has never opposed a nominee until Chipman and has actually supported all nominees for the position to come out of Senate Judiciary Committee. First was Michael Sullivan, nominated by President George W. Bush, and later B. Todd Jones, nominated by President Barack Obama. Jones was confirmed to the position by the Senate. NSSF also supported the nomination of Chuck Canterbury by President Donald Trump. The firearm industry believes strongly that ATF needs – we want – a qualified, unbiased Senate confirmed director.

Chipman was never that person. That’s a view shared by former Acting ATF director Michael Sullivan and other ATF officials.

Take Your Medicine

It wasn’t the “gun lobby” or Republican senators that ended Chipman’s nomination. It was the facts. Chipman is a gun control lobbyist that was nominated to run the bureau that regulates the firearm industry and administers the rules on how Americans exercise their Second Amendment rights. He testified he would ban entire classes of firearms and enact gun registries if he could get away with it. He belittled gun owners and never answered Senate questions about credible media reports that he made racially-disparaging remarks about fellow ATF agents.

Chipman never gained support of all Democratic senators. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) packed Chipman’s confirmation with other nominees to limit Chipman’s exposure to tough questions. Still, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) who caucuses with Democrats, would not offer his support, but Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) were also silent.

NSSF efforts to stop Chipman’s nomination were based on facts and on his record. All the navel-gazing and teeth gnashing by a gun control adoring media won’t change that.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.