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Biden's former ATF pick David Chipman: "The gun industry profits by gun violence itself"

Biden's blocked ATF nominee on gun violence
Biden's blocked ATF nominee on gun violence 03:53

President Biden's former nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is harshly criticizing lawmakers for opposing his nomination last month, arguing that depriving the bureau of a Senate-confirmed leader will only worsen gun violence in America. In an exclusive interview with the "CBS Evening News," David Chipman also criticized the gun industry, saying it "profits by gun violence itself."  

"I have, from 25 years as an ATF agent, and largely for ten years after that, committed myself to one thing: preventing gun violence in this country," Chipman told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell. "To oppose me must mean that you're not for preventing gun violence."

Mr. Biden withdrew Chipman's nomination in early September after choosing him in April to lead the agency, in a blow to his promise of new gun safety measures. In announcing the withdrawal, Mr. Biden blamed congressional Republicans for using gun crime "as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it," and praised Chipman as someone who would have been "an exemplary director of the ATF." 

It was Chipman's past work with Giffords, an organization that advocates for gun control, that helped sink his nomination in the Senate in September. Republicans accused Chipman, a concealed carry owner in Virginia, of opposing the Second Amendment and claimed he was anti-gun. But the final blow was delivered by Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats. 

During the interview with O'Donnell, Chipman spoke strongly about the current state of gun regulations in America, and the fear some people have that their guns will be taken away. 

"I think the real conversation we're having, and I want to be clear, is the fear is it's gonna be harder for people who sell guns to sell guns absent any accountability for profiting from selling them to criminals and terrorists. The reality is in much of America it's easier to buy a gun than a beer," he said. "The problem is the gun industry profits by gun violence itself because it's the fear that you're gonna get shot, that you run out and buy a gun." 

When pressed by O'Donnell on his view that the gun industry profits on fears of gun violence and asked whether he thought "lawful gun owners" also want to get rid of trafficked guns and gun violence, he said, "not enough."

Chipman also said the Second Amendment "says nothing about the right to sell guns to criminals."

"I have no problem with the right to possess guns," he added. "I love that constitutional right [...] The problem is people want to profit by selling guns to people who shouldn't get them and then wipe their hands from it and not be held accountable." 

Chipman said the bureau will suffer in its mission to curb the illegal use of firearms and target criminals who traffic guns because it has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since 2015 and lacks adequate funding. 

"ATF's budget is about $1.5 billion, which seems like a lot of money. But our last aircraft carrier cost $12 billion. ATF is smaller than the Las Vegas Police Department," he said. 

When asked what it will need to succeed, he said, "A leader, the funding to do their job, and the ability to support state and local law enforcement, which is why ATF was created in the first place." 

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