by Karen Mehall Phillips - Thursday, June 17, 2021
The most critical issue facing American gun owners continues to be the Biden administration’s nomination of professional gun control activist and Giffords group advisor David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—the agency that enforces the nation’s gun laws. As groups like the NRA spend millions in pivotal states to defeat the move in the Senate, the latest opposition came on June 11 from an unprecedented source: 22 member organizations of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) consortium, most of which have never stood against a president’s ATF nominee.
In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the hunting, shooting sports and wildlife conservation organizations, including the NRA, respectfully urged the Senate to reject Chipman’s nomination, which would compromise the ATF’s mission. Speaking for millions of sportsmen and women across America, they state:
“Given Mr. Chipman’s longstanding public activism against our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage, we are compelled to oppose his nomination. Many of us are concerned that confirming a high-ranking official of one of the country’s most prolific anti-gun organizations would politicize a traditionally apolitical bureau. Others fear Mr. Chipman will weaponize the directorship and lead to the undermining of our Second Amendment rights through punitive administrative actions. While many of our individual organizations share these fears, our collective opposition to Mr. Chipman’s nomination stems from his long record of radical anti-firearm statements and actions. These give rise to our concern that, if confirmed, Mr. Chipman will take proactive steps to impede gun ownership, hunting and recreational shooting in a manner that detrimentally impacts wildlife conservation and management.”
With more than 10 million Americans purchasing a firearm for the first time during COVID-19, the letter references how the increase in firearms and ammunition sales made 2020 a record year for the collection of Pittman-Robertson excise tax receipts. This funding goes directly to the states for important programs such as wildlife conservation, habitat enhancement, law enforcement and hunter education. According to the AWCP website, contributions totaled nearly $3 billion last year alone.
“Despite these benefits,” the letter notes, “Mr. Chipman stated once again at his recent confirmation hearing that he supports a ban on the most popular rifle sold in the United States,” referring to the AR-15. “These firearms, commonly used by sportsmen and women for both hunting and recreational shooting, are owned by tens of millions of law-abiding Americans. As a result, Mr. Chipman’s position would deny state fish and wildlife departments hundreds of millions of dollars in desperately needed conservation funds.”
In 2017, Chipman also testified before the House Natural Resources Committee in opposition to the NRA-backed HR 3668—the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE)—that expanded access and opportunities for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal lands.
In conclusion, the letter states, “Based on these positions, it is clear that the confirmation of David Chipman as ATF Director would result in significant and far-reaching negative impacts to hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and, importantly, to wildlife and its habitat.”
As the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) notes, it is tough to imagine President Biden choosing a nominee who is more biased or hostile to the rights of American gun owners. In the words of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) taken from an NRA tweet, “Nominating a devoted gun grabber to lead the agency that oversees firearm sales is like hiring a militant vegan to be head chef at a Brazilian steakhouse.”
In a Senate that is evenly split between the two political parties, the reality is that David Chipman’s ATF nomination may hinge on just one vote. Sportsmen and women who wish to reach out to their senators and make their voices heard can visit the NRA-ILA website, NRAILA.org, for details or click here.
About the AWCP
The AWCP is a coalition of 50-plus organizations representing the interests of America’s millions of hunter-conservationists, professional wildlife and natural resource managers, outdoor recreation users, conservation educators and wildlife scientists. The AWCP regularly interacts and engages with federal agencies and Congress to advance legislative and regulatory policies that promote wildlife conservation and public access to lands. To read the full letter opposing ATF nominee David Chipman on the AWCP website, click here.
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