WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration withdrew the nomination of a gun-control advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Thursday after he ran into bipartisan opposition in the Senate.
David Chipman is a former federal agent and adviser at the gun-control group Giffords. He won praise from advocates for his work pushing for greater regulation and enforcement on “ghost guns,” overhauling the background check system and reducing illegal firearms trafficking.
But that same advocacy drew opposition from moderate Republicans including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who said she would vote against Chipman in June. Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine was among a few members of the Democratic caucus that withheld support for Chipman, which doomed his confirmation prospects in the 50-50 divided Senate.
Chipman’s nomination had stalled for months and he was widely seen as one of the administration’s most contentious nominees. The White House and top Democrats had been pushing to try to save his nomination for weeks but could not secure the necessary votes.
Some Democrats said privately they would not vote for Chipman. King has not said that publicly, but Politico reported in August that he had been communicating his reservations about the pick to the White House. On Thursday, King spokesperson Matthew Felling only said the senator had “expressed reservations about Chipman to the administration” and did not answer a question about whether King supported the move to withdraw him.
Chipman was opposed by the influential Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which lobbied Maine’s senators on the issue. The group’s executive director, David Trahan, said last month that the Democratic president should pick someone with less political baggage.
Despite the inability to lock down all Democrats, Biden and the White House blamed Republicans for the failure of Chipman’s nomination on Thursday, with the president saying in a statement that they “moved in lockstep” to kill it.
But gun-control advocates were upset that Chipman had to be pulled. Fred Guttenberg, an activist whose daughter was killed in a Florida school shooting in 2018, tweeted that there are “weak people” in the Senate and named King as one.
Story by Mike Balsamo and Alexandra Jaffe. BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.