The Second Amendment is the Bill of Rights’ cornerstone.
It guarantees our God-given right to defend ourselves, our families, our property and our freedom. President Joe Biden’s nomination of David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is an attack on that right and on the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding gun owners in Montana—and the U.S. Senate must vote against his confirmation.
Our state has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the nation. Far beyond a hobby or even passion, firearms are a part of our heritage and everyday life. We use them to hunt, protect livestock and provide peace of mind when law enforcement may be miles away. Chipman has a long history of involvement with and lobbying for organizations whose mission is to diminish the Second Amendment.
For the last five years, he has been a senior policy adviser for Giffords. In an attempt at the U.S. Supreme Court to defend Washington, D.C.’s complete ban on the possession of handguns, this organization argued that “nothing in the Second Amendment restrains the authority of states or their political subdivisions” when enacting firearm regulations. This dangerous position would allow politicians to run roughshod over the rights of their citizens.
Montanans passed LR 130 in November to restrain local government and prevent them from exercising “any power that applies to or affects the right to keep or bear arms.” The group Everytown for Gun Safety helped spend $1.4 million to oppose this ballot measure. They failed because Montanans value their gun rights. Chipman was a founding advisory board member of Everytown for Gun Safety.
His direct advocacy has also targeted mainstream gun owners. The AR-15 is one of the most popular rifles in America to the point news reports have called it “America’s rifle.” More and more Americans are seeing the utility and value of the AR-15; yet again, Chipman is out of touch.
In 2019 congressional testimony, Chipman said he wants to ban the manufacturing and future sale of AR-15s. In his dream scenario, the millions of law-abiding Americans who already own these rifles would need to pay a $200 tax, subject themselves to fingerprinting and a federal background check, and have that information stored in a federal registration system.
Considering that such a small percentage of gun crimes are committed with AR-15s—a fact that should be well known to a former ATF agent—it is not a stretch to wonder if Chipman wants owners of any type of firearm in a government registry. More people are murdered with sharp objects than with any type of rifle. Does he believe letter openers should also be taxed and registered?
The ATF has an important role to play in upholding the public safety of communities across Montana and around the country. Its agents deserve a director who will inspire confidence from the people they serve. Given Chipman’s history of anti-gun lobbying and political activism, Montanans cannot be expected to believe he will be an unbiased enforcer of current laws. Montanans deserve an ATF director that will crack down on violent criminals and criminal organizations—not law-abiding gun owners.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is standing with Montana gun owners and has said he will vote against David Chipman’s confirmation. If U.S. Sen. Jon Tester really stands behind the Second Amendment like he claims, he must also vote "no" on David Chipman’s confirmation.
Austin Knudsen is attorney general for Montana.