Biden’s nominee to lead ATF supports ban on AR-15 rifle

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday said he supports a ban of the popular AR-15 rifle. 

David Chipman, senior policy advisor for anti-gun violence advocacy group Giffords — named for former congresswoman and gun violence survivor/ Gabby Giffords — appeared before a Senate panel Wednesday where he fielded questions from Republican lawmakers. In response to questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., Chipman admitted to supporting a ban on the AR-15, perhaps the most popular gun in the country.

When asked by Cruz if he wanted to ban the weapon, Chipman said, “With respect to the AR-15, I support a ban as has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president.”

The hearing occurred on the same day a Santa Clara Valley railroad employee shot and killed at least eight people before shooting himself at a light rail yard near downtown San Jose, California. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “multiple weapons” were found at the shooting scene. It is not known if an AR-15 was among them. 

Biden has previously urged Congress to pass legislation that would ban assault weapons and close loopholes in background checks following a mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado grocery store in March. The gunman killed 10 people. 

The shooting in Boulder was preceded by another mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, which left eight mostly Asian Americans dead. Both assailants used AR-15 style guns; the same weapon used in nearly a dozen mass shootings over the last decade. 

The president announced Chipman as his nominee for ATF director in April, the same day he introduced six executive actions on curbing gun violence.

During the Senate confirmation hearing, Chipman explained his history with the AR-15, which included his government issued weapon while serving on an ATF SWAT team. 

“It’s a particularly lethal weapon, and regulating it, as other particularly lethal weapons, I have advocated for,” he said. “As ATF director, if I’m confirmed, I would simply enforce the laws on the books and right now, there is no such ban on those guns.”

Prior to joining Giffords, Chipman served the ATF as a special agent for 25 years. During his long career, he joined the agency’s SWAT team, disrupted firearms trafficking operations between Virginia and New York and was named Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Firearms Programs.

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