Washington, D.C. — Today, the White House announced that it will withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In response, Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
The sequence of events that has made it necessary to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to serve as director of ATF is deeply disappointing. Chipman is a dedicated law enforcement professional and public servant. He is uniquely qualified to lead ATF at this crucial moment when far too many of our communities are experiencing devastating increases in shootings. The efforts by the gun lobby and some in the Senate to derail this nomination, including by disparaging his character and generating lies about his record, are shameful and dangerous and should have no place in any nomination process.
It is unconscionable that the gun industry has been given an effective veto over the head of the agency responsible for regulating it. This is not a new dynamic; in fact, it is by design. Since the position was amended to require Senate confirmation in 2006, only one nominee has been confirmed. The agency has been without a confirmed director since 2015. As the only federal agency with jurisdiction to regulate the gun industry, ATF serves a crucial function in efforts to reduce gun violence, and the agency is a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s comprehensive plan to address gun crime. I urge the Biden administration to immediately identify an alternative nominee for ATF director and secure their swift confirmation to provide urgently needed leadership for this agency.
In addition, policymakers need to question whether the status quo is working when it comes to this agency. ATF has been operating from a politically vulnerable position for more than a decade, without confirmed leadership or sufficient resources to successfully fulfill its mission responsibilities. Meanwhile, the death toll from gun violence steadily rises, communities are terrorized by shootings, and the gun industry capitalizes on fear and anxiety to rake in historic profits. The bare minimum that the American public should expect is for the agency responsible for regulating the gun industry to have the benefit of strong and stable leadership. If requiring Senate confirmation for the ATF director has become an impossible feat during both Democratic and Republican administrations, perhaps it is time to rethink the wisdom of that requirement. And beyond this bare minimum, we should reconsider bigger-picture ideas to address the persistent challenges facing ATF—challenges that are largely built into the agency’s design—such as eliminating ATF as a stand-alone agency and merging it into other components of the U.S. Department of Justice, such as the FBI, as proposed in a 2015 CAP report. The problem of gun violence in this country is too urgent to do anything less.
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