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Biden withdraws nomination of David Chipman for ATF director

Shots fired: America's epidemic of gun violence
Shots fired: America's epidemic of gun violence 10:46

Washington — President Biden withdrew the nomination of David Chipman to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Thursday amid bipartisan concerns about his past gun control advocacy.

Mr. Biden tapped Chipman in April to lead the agency, which has not had a Senate-approved director since 2015. It's unclear when the president will name a new nominee. 

Mr. Biden praised Chipman in a statement on the withdrawal of his nomination, saying he would have been "an exemplary director of the ATF and would have redoubled its efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence."

"Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have made clear that they intend to use gun crime as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it," the president said. "That's why they've moved in lockstep to block David Chipman's confirmation, and it's why they side with gun manufacturers over the overwhelming majority of the American people in opposing commonsense measures like universal background checks."

Mr. Biden pledged his administration will continue "to use every tool at our disposal to fight gun violence and keep Americans safe."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters there are "active discussions" with Chipman about what role in the federal government "might be of interest to him."

Chipman served 25 years as special agent with the ATF, but it was his work as senior policy adviser for Giffords, an organization that advocates for gun control, that sparked pushback to his nomination by Republicans and gun rights groups.

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of former President Donald Trump, was a vocal opponent of Chipman's nomination and claimed that if confirmed, he would dismantle the Second Amendment. As part of his efforts to tank Chipman's nomination, Trump Jr. targeted Democratic senators in red states, such as Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Opposition from any Democratic senator would have derailed Chipman's nomination in the Senate, where Democrats control 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking votes. The Senate Judiciary Committee failed to report Chipman's nomination favorably in June, after its members deadlocked on his nomination with a vote of 11-11.

GOP senators cheered reports that Chipman's nomination would be withdrawn. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee who requested a second hearing on Chipman's nomination, said in a statement that his "long record as a partisan, anti-Second amendment activist raised plenty of concerns." Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, also a member of the Judiciary panel, said his views on firearms were "wildly outside the mainstream."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the White House's move a "win for the Second Amendment and law-abiding American citizens."

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, accused the gun industry of working to keep the position of ATF director empty because it "resents" the agency's focus on reducing gun violence by limiting sales of firearms and enforcing gun laws. 

"David Chipman is the latest target of their concerted effort," he said in a statement. "In the name of the countless victims of gun violence in my state and across the nation, I encourage the Biden administration to send another nominee to head ATF as soon as possible. We cannot be cowered by gun dealers who are flooding America with crime guns."

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