Going Beyond David Chipman’s Failed ATF Nomination
The White House announced recently that President Biden has withdrawn David Chipman’s nomination to be the head of the ATF. While gun rights advocates rejoiced in this news after months of battling against Chipman’s confirmation, the fight is far from over and the path forward is far from clear.
Government positions that require Senate confirmation are hard to nail down, whether it be something as permanent as a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court or as the director of 5,000 people within the ATF. Because of the bureau’s controversial regulatory purview, it has struggled more than most when it comes to solid, long-term leadership.
The ATF became an official bureau in 1972, and it had no issues with finding and keeping leadership for the next three decades. There were five directors between 1972 and 2004, all of whom were confirmed by the Senate and served for long periods of time. After that, things began to change for the ATF. There have been a total of ten people in that position over the past 17 years, and none of them have been confirmed since 2015.
All of this means that we are left with a bureau in charge of 5,000 employees who are left without solid, consistent leadership at the helm. While we may not always like or agree with the direction and action taken by the ATF, one thing remains certain for it and any other workforce: performance suffers without proven leadership.
The influence of the firearms community has been proven time and time again when it comes to legislative matters. We write, call, and email our legislators, and, most importantly, we vote. We do this more than any other group, and politicians take notice. That’s why anti-gun groups are quick to lay blame at Chipman’s failed confirmation at the feet of groups like the FPC, NSSF, and NRA. While they paint the groups and their members as evil, we know them to instead be full of active participants in government.
This is where you and I come back into the picture. What we can, and need to, do to help our elected officials help us is by pushing for a more moderate candidate to be nominated for this position. If President Biden nominates someone our community thinks we can live with and work with, then we owe it to that nominee to speak out in favor for them just as ardently as we spoke out in opposition to David Chipman.
The best thing we can do is seek to get someone more amenable to our needs at the helm, and not just someone in an acting capacity. The ATF needs a Senate-confirmed, long-term director. It’s the only way for the bureau to set a steady course on a straight heading, instead of all the flip-flopping we’ve seen in recent years.
The likelihood of the Biden-Harris Administration nominating someone who is pro-gun for this position is less than zero. However, it’s been proven that we will not allow someone as ardently anti-gun as David Chipman to be put in charge.
Now is the time for us to be the bigger person, and put our support behind a candidate who is considered moderate when it comes to the “F” part of the “ATF” that we all care about so deeply.
At the end of the day, the ATF is a part of the federal government, and it will never be perfect. It can, however, strive to be better than it has been in the past. It’s every firearms enthusiast’s biggest wish that the ATF would simply go away. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen any time soon – if ever. Instead, we need to take an active role in putting the ATF back on track. Preventing Chipman’s confirmation was only part of that process. We addressed the problem, now let’s offer a solution.