During a heated confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Republican senators tore into President Joe Biden‘s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after he butchered the definition of an assault rifle.
David Chipman refused to say during the Judiciary Committee hearing if he would investigate Hunter Biden for violating federal law by lying on a gun background check and was forced to apologize for mocking gun owners in a 2020 interview.
‘Day to day, ATF plays a significant role in the legal trade of firearms in this country,’ Ranking Member Chuck Grassley said as he tore into Chipman, a senior policy adviser at the Giffords gun control advocacy group.
‘Many see putting a committed gun control proponent, like Mr. Chipman, in charge of ATF, is like putting a tobacco executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services or Antifa in charge of the Portland police department.’
Senator Tom Cotton’s questioning of Chipman was particularly heated as the Arkansas Republican demanded Chipman define ‘assault weapon.’
‘You have called for an assault weapons ban, I have a simple question for you: What is an assault weapon?’ Cotton questioned Biden’s pick to head the ATF.
‘What Congress defines it as,’ Chipman deflected.
‘So you’re asking us to ban assault weapons, we have to write legislation, can you tell me: What is an assault weapon? How would you define it if you were the head of the ATF? How have you defined it over the last several years as your role as a gun control advocate?’ Cotton pushed.
According to firearm sale reports on the southwestern border, Chipman said, ATF defined an assault weapon as ‘any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22, which would include a .223, which is, you know, largely the AR-15 round.’
Joe Biden’s pick to head the ATF David Chipman was confronted by Republican senators during his confirmation hearing Wednesday on his proposal to ban assault weapons, refusal to commit to investigate Hunter Biden and comparing gun owners to Tiger King
Senator Tom Cotton demanded Chipman define ‘assault weapon’, to which Chipman deflected before saying ‘any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22, which would include a .223, which is, you know, largely the AR-15 round’
Cotton also demanded that Chipman commit to investigating the president’s son, Hunter Biden (pictured), for lying on a firearms purchase form in 2018 by saying he was not addicted to illegal substances, which would preclude him from purchasing a firearm
He still would not say definitively what he would define as an assault weapon.
‘I’m amazed that that might be the definition of assault weapon,’ Cotton said. ‘That would basically cover every single modern sporting rifle in America today.’
During the hearing, the Judiciary Committee was tasked with questioning five nominees at the same time as Senate Democrats attempt to push through more confirmations of Biden appointees.
Republicans, in particular, complained about the format.
Cotton also asked Chipman to commit to investigating reports that the president’s son Hunter Biden violated federal law by lying about drug use on a form to purchase a firearm in 2018.
‘The ATF form 4473 asks, ‘Are you an unlawful user of or addicted to any drug or uncontrolled substance?’. If an application clicks ‘yes’ they cannot purchase a firearm,’ Cotton detailed.
‘On March 25, Politico reported that Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, applied for a handgun that was later thrown in the trash and had to be recovered by Secret Service agents in 2018. Politico reported that Hunter Biden completed this background check and answered ‘no’ to the question of whether he was an unlawful user or addicted to any drug. Hunter Biden has since published a book and gone on a nation-wide book tour conducting numerous interviews stating that he was, in fact, very much addicted to drugs at the same time that he purchased this firearm. This would mean that by his own admission Hunter Biden lied on that form, and by your earlier testimony, committed a serious felony.’
Chipman wouldn’t commit to an investigation, but deflected: ‘If I’m confirmed as ATF director, it will be my responsibility to enforce all federal laws without political favor. I do not know any factors in this particular case, but I am familiar with the press account of it’
‘Should Hunter Biden be prosecuted for breaking this law?’ Cotton asked.
‘If I’m confirmed as ATF director, it will be my responsibility to enforce all federal laws without political favor. I do not know any factors in this particular case, but I am familiar with the press account of it,’ the nominee deflected, yet again.
After pointing out the facts are clear cut and have a statute of limitations for five years, Cotton again asked: ‘Can I get your commitment that if you are confirmed you will, in fact, look into this matter and refer it for prosecution if you find that Hunter Biden violated the law?’
‘I will ensure that all violations of law are investigated and referred to,’ Chipman said. ‘I’m not sure that it has not been investigated.’
‘Many see putting a committed gun control proponent, like Mr. Chipman, in charge of ATF, is like putting a tobacco executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services or Antifa in charge of the Portland police department,’ Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley said of Chipman
Senator Mike Lee also excoriated Chipman for an April 2020 interview with Cheddar where the gun control advocate and former ATF agent mocked first-time gun owners who purchased firearms at the onset of the pandemic.
He claimed that hopelessness, anxiety and fear may have led to the massive uptick in firearms purchases in spring 2020.
‘There are risks to that choice,’ he said in the interview. ‘They might think that they’re die-hard, ready to go, but unfortunately they’re more like Tiger King and they’re putting themselves and their family in danger.’
He also appeared to satirically give advice to these first-time owners by telling them to secure their firearms unloaded and ‘hide it behind the cans of tuna and beef jerky that you’ve stored in the cabinet.’
Those comments were reupped by Lee during Chipman’s confirmation on Wednesday.
‘When I first saw this, I watched the clip and I read the clip several times, hoping I was missing context, hoping that there was something else there that would make this less troubling,’ the Utah senator said of the comments.
‘It concerns me that you, as the nominee to be the director of the ATF, would have such a flippant and, if I may say so, utterly condescending attitude toward first-time gun owners in this country,’ he continued.
Senate Mike Lee also excoriated Chipman for comparing first-time gun owners who purchase at the onset of the pandemic to Tiger King’s Joe Exotic
Chipman said in an April 2020 interview: ‘They might think that they’re die-hard, ready to go, but unfortunately they’re more like Tiger King and they’re putting themselves and their family in danger’
Lee asked: ‘Why would you choose to insult so many of your fellow Americans with a statement like this based on the fact that they purchased a gun?’
Chipman said the comments were meant to be ‘self-deprecating humor.’
‘The person who had a gun stored behind his tuna and beef jerky was me,’ he explained. ‘And I was saying that all of us were acting in new ways as a response to COVID and I thought that people should be very clear that when they bring a gun in their home, they need to be properly trained.’
At the top of the hearing, Chairman Dick Durbin gave Chipman a chance to explain some information that has circulated about him, including that he was part of the ATF operation that led to the Waco Massacre and posed on the destruction for a photo – and that he spread false information in 2020 about that attack.
Chipman was a special agent with the ATF for 25 years, including at the time of the Waco siege.
The nominee insisted that he was not present during the massacre of Branch Davidian cult members in Waco, Texas in 1993. He said, rather, that he was brought in afterwards in May of that year to investigate the events.
‘One of the reasons I was selected was because I had no involvement in the actual case that was being examined,’ he reasoned.
‘With regards to a photo that I too have seen on the internet – this is not me,’ he insisted. ‘It is, in fact, a real photo that comes from the time of Waco. It has a stamp on it that shows that it was evidence. But during the course of the investigation I interviewed all of the ATF agents at Wace and that is not an ATF agent.’
During a Reddit thread known as ‘Ask Me Anything’ in 2020, Chipman answered questions about his time as an ATF agent and his fight since then to combat gun violence and enact more gun control legislation in America.
There is an image of Chipman holding up a paper inviting people to ‘ask him anything’.
Chipman falsely in an answer to one question that Branch Davidian religious sect members shot down two helicopters – something that blatantly did not happen.
He said: ‘[C]ult members used 2 (two) .50 caliber Barretts to shoot down two Texas Air National Guard helicopters.’
While it’s plausible these powerful rounds could take down helicopters, none were shot down during the standoff.
Chipman, however said during the hearing Wednesday that he did see bullet holes in the helicopters, but said he should have used better wording to describe the officers were shot at and not taken down by the rounds.
‘I could have done a better job by describing them as being ‘forced down’ because of the gunfire as opposed to shot down, which might have left the impression that they were blown out of the sky, which they were not. And I regret that confusion I added,’ Chipman said.
He blamed having to ‘type fast’ for the event on what may have caused the slip up in wording.