President Joe Biden has pulled the nomination of gun-control advocate David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Reuters reports, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.
The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and other outlets also reported Biden’s impending move Thursday, citing multiple unnamed sources.
Chipman had faced strong Republican opposition in the Senate, undermining his chances of winning confirmation in a chamber only narrowly controlled by Biden’s fellow Democrats. Republicans generally oppose gun control measures. Biden has called U.S. gun violence a “national embarrassment.”
The two sources, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Chipman’s nomination had been withdrawn. One of the sources noted that Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who generally votes with the Democrats but was a holdout on Chipman, was a key factor in the decision to withdraw the nomination.
“Angus King is the main reason our most qualified ATF director in its history is not assuming this role,” the source said.
The White House declined to comment on the matter.
Chipman previously worked at the ATF for nearly 25 years, but currently serves as a policy adviser for the advocacy group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, Sen. Mark Kelly, after a gunman shot her in 2011. Chipman’s advocacy role had inflamed many Republicans as well as pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association.
Chipman’s nomination has been an uphill battle, with the Senate Judiciary Committee in June splitting along party lines when it voted to advance his nomination. That meant Democrats would have had to jump through procedural hurdles to get Chipman confirmed. Republicans in particular opposed his support for banning military-style assault weapons.
The job of ATF director is so politically fraught that the Senate has confirmed only one nominee to the post in the past 15 years. The rest of the ATF’s leaders have served in an acting capacity, making it harder to put their stamp on lasting and meaningful policy.
The ATF is positioned to play a vital role in Biden’s pledge to crack down on rising U.S. violent crime and shootings. His administration is looking to regulate self-assembled “ghost guns” and stabilizing braces that can be attached to pistols.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged that the ATF will crack down on gun dealers who fail to conduct background checks, do not assist law enforcement with tracing guns used in crimes, falsify records or sell guns to people prohibited from owning them.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.