U.S. Senate panel to vote on gun control advocate to lead firearms enforcement agency

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will vote on whether to advance the nomination of gun control advocate David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The ATF will play a vital role in Biden’s pledge to crack down on a tide of rising violent crime and shootings. Chipman, who has more than two decades of experience as an ATF agent, is expected to face opposition from Republicans on the panel who object to his views including support for a ban on assault weapons.

The U.S. Senate is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, making it likely the vote for Chipman’s nomination could be tied on the panel just as the committee remained split over two of Biden’s other Justice Department nominees: Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke.

A tie will require Senate Democrats to jump through some procedural hurdles to advance his nomination, but is not an insurmountable roadblock.

The job is so politically fraught that the Senate has only confirmed one ATF director nominee in the last 15 years. The rest of the ATF’s leaders served in an acting capacity, making it harder to put their stamp on lasting and meaningful policy.

The administration is looking to regulate self-assembled “ghost guns” and stabilizing braces that can be attached to pistols. On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged that the ATF will ramp up efforts to revoke licenses of gun dealers who fail to conduct background checks or assist law enforcement with requests to trace guns used in crimes; who falsify records or sell guns to people prohibited from owning them, or refuse to submit to the ATF’s compliance inspections. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by David Gregorio)

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