It has certainly been an eventful week here at The Reload.
My exclusive report on ATF agents corroborating the existence of a complaint that director nominee David Chipman made racist remarks while working at the agency has shaken up D.C. Every single Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter demanding a new hearing on his nomination while citing The Reload‘s reporting by name. We broke the news of the committee members’ letter, and in the same story Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) called on President Biden to withdraw Chipman.
He followed up those comments with a speech on the Senate floor citing The Reload‘s reporting.
The White House and Senate Democrats have been silent on the accusations against Chipman. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts. But some of their allies in the gun-control movement spoke up in response to my piece.
They did so by attempting to smear The Reload and my reporting. In what appeared to be a coordinated effort to discredit the report, the President of Brady United called The Reload “an extremist rag designed to pedal [sic] gun lobby lies.” Another prominent gun-control activist repeated the attack with the same exact phrase, down to the incorrect spelling of the word “peddle.”
They used the age-old tactic of claiming a reporter has secret motives and made-up sources—something many do when they have no response to the story itself. By now, I think most of you know very well that The Reload is the furthest thing from an “extremist rag,” and that I certainly don’t make up sources or report stories without being sure about them.
What’s more telling than the attacks from some is the silence from others. I, of course, reached out to the White House for comment from them and David Chipman on the allegations. I haven’t received any response, but if I ever do, I will publish it.
I wasn’t surprised by this development, yet I will say I’ve been somewhat disappointed by the response to it from my fellow reporters. While I was very happy to see so many Reload readers and conservative media figures defended my work, I was surprised by how few reporters were willing to do so. There were notable exceptions in major media including the Washington Post‘s Christopher Ingraham and CNN’s Jake Tapper, but that’s about it.
I believe my work stands on its own, of course. I can handle the smears. However, if the politics were reversed, it is difficult to imagine the journalistic community not pushing back on baseless allegations by partisan actors in response to a major report about accusations of racism levied against an administration nominee.
For that matter, it’s difficult to imagine a story like this one being completely ignored by mainstream outlets had Chipman been a Trump or Bush nominee. I mean, perhaps major outlets are working on follow-ups to my story. I can’t say for sure, but I’m not holding my breath, since they didn’t even note it after it caused significant movement on the Hill.
But that’s why I created The Reload in the first place and why support from Reload members is so important. Nobody else was able to get the sources to break this important story, and it’s not even clear anyone else bothered to try.
I talked with Cam Edwards from Bearing Arms on this week’s episode of the podcast. We discussed my recent report about ATF agents corroborating the existence of a complaint that President Joe Biden’s director nominee made racist comments.
Cam has been one of the best pro-gun writers and show hosts out there for years and years at this point. So, I was very interested in his take on the fallout from the story. We talked about Republicans calling for a new confirmation hearing on the nominee, David Chipman, in the wake of the agents’ comments. And we discussed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) calling for Chipman’s withdraw.
Plus, we went over how the president of one of the country’s leading gun-control groups and a prominent activist attacked The Reload for publishing the story. And I talk about why those attacks were so outlandish.
Cam is somebody I’ve long admired for the calm and reasonable way he approaches gun news and advocacy. I’ve also been on his show a bunch of times over the years. So, I was thrilled to be able to have him on my own new show! Give it a listen, I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Plus, I give an exclusive update on a big name leaving the NRA’s board.
You can listen to or download the audio here. Or you can watch the episode below, especially if you want to check out Cam’s epic beard!
David Chipman’s power over what guns and ammo remain legal would be broader than many realize, according to one ATF source.
A former ATF agent with over 20 years of experience told The Reload Chipman would have significant say over the myriad of “sporting purpose” exceptions that allow many guns to remain legal. The official, who previously voiced concerns about Chipman’s history of gun-control advocacy, said new laws are not necessary to grant Chipman power. They pointed to several “sporting use” exceptions already in current federal law.
The National Firearms Act of 1934 requires all firearms with a barrel with a diameter greater than half an inch to be registered with the ATF and taxed. Since that definition would include all 12 and 20 gauge shotguns, Congress included an exception for shotguns “particularly suitable for sporting purposes” as determined by the attorney general. Similarly, the Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits importing, manufacturing, and distributing what it calls “armor-piercing ammunition.” But, since many kinds of popular ammunition fall under the law’s definition of “armor-piercing,” Congress allowed an exception for ammo with a sporting purpose as determined by the AG. The same is true for nearly all firearms imports under the Gun Control Act.
So, federal law governing shotguns, so-called “armor-piercing” ammunition, and firearms imports all have broad exceptions for sporting use that the Attorney General could narrow at the request of the ATF director. The director could theoretically restrict most shotguns, many kinds of popular ammunition, and most firearm imports if he decided to hollow out the exceptions. And it wouldn’t require congressional approval.
“He just wakes up on a given day and says, ‘I think this is not a sporting firearm. I hereby decide it,’” the former agent said.
They said Chipman’s history of paid gun-control advocacy and public comments supporting strict new gun bans, including a ban on the popular AR-15 rifle, made him a particularly troubling pick given the broad power he could inherit.
“What is sporting, and who gets to define that?” the agent said. “Do you want Dave Chipman defining it? Frankly, do you want a far-end of either side of the spectrum person defining the word sporting?”
The source said it is dangerous to appoint an activist like Chipman to be director of a regulatory agency like the ATF. They said the sporting purpose exceptions were written to be interpreted in good faith, but an activist could push their boundaries and use them to effectively circumvent the law’s intent.
“How does he implement that activism?” they said. “It’s one thing to say he’s an activist. But does he have the power to put this into practice the day he takes the job? Yes.”
The former official said it wouldn’t be the first time a director used narrowed the sporting purpose exception to ban guns they didn’t like.
“Do you remember when we banned street sweeper shotguns?” the source said. “We banned them overnight. We went around the country and simply gathered them. We deemed they didn’t have a sporting use.”
Chipman told senators during his May confirmation hearing he would put his activism aside and not try to enact new gun laws while director. But the source said he left out the fact he wouldn’t need to try and create new powers or laws because he would be granted vast authority under the laws already on the books.
“The law of the land gives him this authority,” the former agent said. “So, he’s not actually lying about anything. He already has the authority. He sort of left that part out. He didn’t sit there in front of Congress and say, ‘oh, by the way, I already have the authority.’”
That’s it for this tumultuous week!
Talk to you all again soon.