The Reload Analysis Newsletter

Members’ Newsletter: Chipman in Limbo and Absurd Second Amendment Interpretations

This week was a good week for The Reload. We broke several stories on the fight over President Joe Biden’s proposed gun actions, and while the site has only been around for three months, it’s already becoming one of the go-to places in the country for gun news.

I couldn’t be happier with the progress thus far. And I couldn’t be more encouraged by the support we’ve gotten from the paid members. The Reload is a reader-funded operation, and we truly owe our success to you guys.

Before I get too sentimental, let’s talk about one of those exclusive stories: the state of President Biden’s ATF nominee.

David Chipman
David Chipman at the May 26th Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing / Screenshot

The Longer Chipman is in Limbo, the Worse His Odds

David Chipman’s chances of becoming the next director of the ATF diminished this week.

We reported on Tuesday that several Democratic senators remain on the fence about his nomination. Several other outlets confirmed as much. It seems more moderate members like Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Angus King (I., Maine), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) remain undecided.

Their public fence-sitting turned out to be more than just posturing, since Chipman didn’t get a vote this week. That’s important because Chipman passed the hurdle of the Senate Judiciary Committee just before Congress went to recess. This was the first week back, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) could have put him to a full vote, but he didn’t.

That’s almost certainly because he doesn’t think he has the votes—at least, not yet.

And the math got permanently harder this week as well. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey was one of the few Republicans Hill watchers believed could have voted for Chipman. But the retiring senator, who famously partnered with Manchin to push for universal background check legislation in 2013, announced Thursday that he would vote against Chipman.

That means Democrats will likely have to go it alone to get Biden’s ATF pick confirmed.

With Chipman’s long history of support for gun bans many Democratic senators don’t support and his status as a paid gun-control activist, the hill may be too steep to climb. The longer his nomination drags out, the less likely it becomes.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Chipman is done yet. He’s reportedly having one-on-one meetings with several skeptical Democrats to try and win them over. And Maggie Hassan (D., N.H) went on record supporting him this week despite her upcoming re-election.

Schumer and Biden don’t appear poised to yank his nomination and seem to prefer giving the wobbly-kneed Democrats time to come around. Or, perhaps, give gun-control advocates time to push them in the desired direction.

The fight is far from over but, barring a major event that boosts the urgency to appoint a new ATF director, the longer Chipman sits, the worse off he is.

Gun at a shooting gallery
Gun at a shooting gallery / Stephen Gutowski

Annoying Absurdist Second Amendment Arguments

This week I ran into several of the least serious arguments about what the Second Amendment actually means, and it annoys me to no end.

I try my best to avoid getting too angry when I’m writing pieces for The Reload. I don’t want this to become a place for screeds or hot takes. There’s plenty of that out there already.

Instead, I want this to be a place for hard news and reasonable discussions about guns in America. I try to approach arguments in good faith and respond in as sober a way as possible. I guess that’s why lazy, slapdash attempts to interpret the Second Amendment bother me so much.

They just insult people’s intelligence on all sides of the issue.

It’s one thing to say you don’t like the Second Amendment. It’s one thing to say you think guns are a net-negative in society and you think they should be banned. It’s another entirely to argue the Second Amendment was never intended to mean anything at all and reserves no actually rights to the people of the United States at all.

That’s just disingenuous and, frankly, dumb.

The text of the amendment is very plain about what the right is (to keep and bear arms), who it is reserved to (the People), and why it is important (a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state). But we still constantly get arguments saying “keep” isn’t synonymous with “own,” from people such as Keith Olbermann. Or that the entire concept that the Second Amendment applies to the People was made up by the NRA a few years ago, from people such as Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall.

It’s just gibberish.

The Second Amendment, like the First Amendment or any other amendment, has limits. There is a world of discussion to be had about what exactly entails an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court is essentially just starting to have that debate, and there are plenty of reasonable points of view to be considered.

But you can’t have a meaningful conversation with somebody about what the limits of the Second Amendment are if they’re just going to try and gaslight you about the plain meaning of the words to a degree where the absurdity, foolishness, and asininity may well set a Thesaurus aflame.

That’s why I’m glad there are people like Duke University’s Jake Charles out there who approach the topic from a serious point of view, even if I don’t always agree with his conclusions. That’s exactly why I had him on the podcast this week. You can check that out below.

Podcast: Duke’s Jake Charles on the California Assault Weapons Ban Ruling and Exclusives on Republican Efforts to Block Biden’s Gun Actions [Member Early Access]

This week I cover the stories I broke about Republicans’ efforts to stop Biden’s gun agenda and ATF nominee. Then I talk with one of the top gun law researchers in the academic world.

Jake Charles, executive director of the Center for Firearms Law at Duke University, joins me to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the recent California “assault weapons” ban ruling. While he agrees the opinion was written in a way that makes it accessible to ordinary people, he argues it doesn’t do much to convince anyone who isn’t already on the gun-rights side of the fence.

We go back and forth on the metaphors used by Judge Roger Benitez as well as the backlash to them. And we talk about how influential his ruling might end up being in the long run. Plus, we dive into the different legal standards Benitez employs in his ruling, especially his “Heller test.”

Jake brings his years of experience studying Second Amendment litigation and historical gun laws to the conversation, which helps him provide a level of insight you just can’t find elsewhere. That’s why I often quote him in my stories and why I wanted to have him on when I saw his take on the California ruling was different from much of what I’d seen in the gun community.

I think the conversation was fruitful and something you simply won’t find anywhere else. When I say I want to bring on people who are both knowledgeable and have a different point of view, Jake is exactly the kind of person I’m talking about.

You can listen to the full episode by clicking this link, or watch it below:


Let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to answer on next week’s episode of the podcast. Or if you have any topics you want to see me cover, or any guests you’d like me to have on.

That’s all I have for now.

I’ll talk to you all again soon.

Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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