This week showed what kind of real-world impact The Reload‘s reporting can have. After a series of exclusive reports detailing accusations of racism levied against the nominee to head the ATF, President Biden pulled him from consideration on Thursday.
The Reload has been in operation for just over four months. It is an entirely reader-funded publication with just three people making it work. Yet we were able to break several stories on one of the President’s biggest nominees and they resulted in just the second time he has had to drop a nominee.
Other outlets were either unable or unwilling to provide the level of journalistic scrutiny of the President’s nominee that The Reload produced. I am proud of the work we did on this story. And it literally could not have happened without the support of our members.
We will use that continued support to bring more sober, serious firearms reporting that has a demonstrable impact on the world around you day after day.
David Chipman will not be the director of the ATF.
Multiple sources have told Politico, The Washington Post, and CNN the White House plans to withdraw his nomination after failing to garner 50 votes in the Senate. Chipman was unable to secure support from even the Democratic caucus after a contentious confirmation hearing and a series of Reload stories on allegations of racism on his part coming from former ATF agents. The Reload stories led to calls from Republicans for new hearings and a whistleblower report being filed with the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A black former ATF agent told The Reload in August that Chipman had falsely accused him of cheating on a promotion assessment because he believed the agent had done too well on a section of the examination.
“I couldn’t believe it when it happened,” the agent said. “But when I read about his other comments, in my mind, I was like ‘that motherf*****.’ That’s what happened. He said, ‘Hey, a lot of African Americans qualified to be promoted on this certification list; they must have been cheating.’ And then he had to go and find one. I happened to be that one.”
The agent said Chipman’s complaint against him initiated a years-long inspector general investigation against him in 2007 that sidetracked his career before exonerating him. The Department of Justice confirmed Chipman had initiated an investigation against an agent over accusations of cheating in 2007. However, they would not release the report or confirm any further details about it.
President Joe Biden was dealt a serious political setback on Thursday when he withdrew his pick to head the ATF.
That leaves the administration’s executive branch gun-control push without its planned shepherd. And it leaves the gun-control groups that have staunchly backed Biden without one of their own in a key administrative position at a time when their hopes for passing legislation are at an all-time low. So, what comes next?
The president could choose to nominate somebody else immediately, or he could decide to hold off until after the midterm elections. He could try to nominate a less-controversial candidate, or he could try to find another gun-control activist with less baggage to fill the role.
Reload members can read the whole article here. If you’re not yet a member, join now to access this and other exclusive posts!
White House Praises ATF Director Nominee While Canning Him
By Jake Fogleman
Despite withdrawing his nomination, The Biden Administration doubled down on its support for David Chipman. In an official statement on Thursday, the President had nothing but praise for his former nominee to head the ATF.
“David Chipman spent 25 years in distinguished service to our country as an ATF agent,” President Biden said. “He’s a gun owner himself, and someone who has the backing of law enforcement groups. And, he’s spent most of last decade as a leading voice for commonsense gun violence prevention legislation that will save lives. He would have been an exemplary Director of the ATF and would have redoubled its efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence.”
The statement came just hours after news broke of the withdrawal of David Chipman to head the agency tasked with enforcing the country’s federal gun laws. Chipman’s nomination was controversial from the very beginning due to his affiliation with prominent gun control organizations and his support for restrictive gun laws. His confirmation prospects were further diminished after The Reload uncovered multiple allegations of racism levied against Chipman during his time with the ATF.
The President did not address the allegations in his statement and blamed Congressional Republicans and the gun lobby for Chipman’s withdrawal instead.
This week’s guest is John Correia of Active Self Protection. He gives us a deep dive into what it’s like to run a YouTube business with millions of followers. He also talks about why he takes a different, less-polarizing approach to making gun content for the internet.
John has been studying and breaking down deadly-force encounters caught on video for years now. His channel has become the premier place for evidence-based advice on how best to survive an attack. And he shares some of the biggest insights he’s gained doing the endless research required to build his channel and Active Self Protection’s unique training courses.
Contributing writer Jake Fogelman and I also give an update on the CDC”s new push to fund gun research and just how many guns were sold in August. Plus, I talk to Reload member Cal Davis about his background with guns and why he decided to subscribe!
You can listen to the full podcast here or on your favorite podcasting app.
You can also watch the podcast on our YouTube channel.
Heller Takes DC Back to Court Over ‘Ghost-Gun’ Ban
By Jake Fogleman
The man behind the most consequential gun-rights case in American history is back in court.
Dick Heller, who got the Supreme Court to strike down the District of Columbia’s total ban on handguns, is now suing the city over its total ban on firearms manufacturing. His new lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges the District’s gun-making ban violates the Second Amendment.
“You can’t even make your own gun,” Heller told The Reload. “That’s an infringement.”
He called the prohibition “nonsensical” and questioned what else the city might try to ban.
“That’s like saying you can’t make a knife; you can’t build a car,’ Heller said. “Can I carve a baseball bat? A baseball bat is a deadly weapon in certain conditions.”
Part of the city’s law targets unfinished firearms parts used by DIY builders to create unserialized guns. The practice of building guns at home has been legal since the founding of the country but has become increasingly controversial in recent years with the advent of 3D printing and other technologies that have lowered the barrier for entry to making firearms at home. Gun-control activists and politicians alike, including President Joe Biden (D.), have labeled unserialized homemade guns “ghost guns” in recent years and sought to outlaw their production.
The fight over abortion reached new levels in Texas this week, but it’s likely to spill over into another hot-button issue: gun control.
That’s because the Texas pro-life bill has struck on a novel strategy. And that strategy saw success this week. It managed to short-circuit efforts in the federal courts to get enforcement blocks put into place before the expansive abortion ban went into effect. Even the Supreme Court decided against intervening at this point.
And that success will breed copycats.
Texas used a new enforcement mechanism to confound its opponents in court. Instead of making it a criminal offense to perform or assist in carrying out an abortion after 6 weeks and relying on government agents to enforce the ban, they made it a civil offense and empowered regular people to sue as an enforcement mechanism.
Reload members can read the entire piece here. If you’re not yet a member, join now to access this and other exclusive posts!
Rob Pincus is not shy about sharing his opinions.
The gun-rights advocate and longtime self-defense trainer sat down with The Reload‘s founder Stephen Gutowski to talk about everything from internal NRA politics to 3D-printed guns and the criticism of his provocative approach to gun-rights activism. He knows more than a bit about the former, owing to his time on the NRA’s board of directors. But his experience in activism and defiant approach to much of the conventional wisdom found in the gun community goes further back, to his early work in firearms training.
Now Pincus is a board member of Save the Second, a group aiming to remove CEO Wayne LaPierre and reform the NRA from within, while he continues work in gun training and suicide prevention. He has also become more engaged in the DIY gun makers community since the pandemic hit and helped organize one of the first shooting matches to feature only homemade guns earlier this year. But his counter-narrative—and sometimes abrasive—approach has drawn criticism from other gun-rights advocates. His partnership with former Brady Campaign president Dan Gross to promote what the two men describe as a compromise approach to gun policy faced heavy backlash since it involves expanded background checks—a proposal that drew ire from other gun-rights advocates. Comments he’s made on how the industry could potentially license their designs to home builders and his tendency to seek out mainstream media attention rather than shun it have also garnered anger in corners of the gun-rights movement.
In Part 1 of this wide-ranging interview, Pincus answered big-picture questions about gun culture and training. He argued there are some orthodoxies that gun-rights proponents need to reexamine, pointing to many positive changes he’s seen in recent years that only came when people were willing to question long-held beliefs. And he responds to complaints from his critics.
The following is the first third of Gutowski’s conversation with Pincus, lightly edited for clarity:
A new legal shootout is taking shape in the state of Virginia.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) announced a suit against the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) on Friday. The gun-rights group is accusing the gun-control group of defaming them. The fight stems from CSGV labeling VCDL a “domestic terror group” in press releases surrounding the Virginia gubernatorial election.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the VCDL, said the suit was about trying to protect the organization’s reputation.
“We want to clear our name and punish the other side for what they did to us,” Van Cleave told The Reload. “They flat out said that we were a ‘domestic terror’ group as if that was a statement of fact. They said we are which is very different from somebody saying, ‘well, they act like’ or ‘they seem like.’”
VCDL is alleging CSGV called them a “domestic terror group” in two separate press releases.
Gutowski on NPR: Canceled NRA Annual Meeting ‘Has a Very Real Impact’
By The Reload Staff
Founder of The Reload Stephen Gutowski joined NPR on Friday to discuss the canceling of this year’s NRA Annual Meeting.
Interviewer Tim Mak noted that it was the second year in a row that the annual meeting has been canceled and asked what impact that might have on the organization.
“I think it has a very real impact on their finances specifically because the NRA annual meeting is the largest fundraising event of the year for this group,” Gutowski said. “It usually features over 80,000 attendees. It’s also a big rallying point for their membership.”
He also discussed why the group has been able to withstand mounting scandals and how it continues to successfully oppose new gun control proposals.
“They still have 5 million members,” Gutowski said. “That hasn’t grown since 2013, but it’s still by far the largest of any gun-related group.”
The legal status of a popular firearm accessory is facing a direct challenge from the ATF, and the response from opponents was immense.
The public comment period for the Biden administration’s proposed ban on most stabilizing pistol braces ended Wednesday, after 90 days and more than 209,000 submitted comments. April Langwell, Chief of the ATF’s Public Affairs Division, said the proposal is among the most commented on in the agency’s history.
“ATF received over 186,000 comments on the NPRM on bump stocks,” she told The Reload. “In comparison, ATF received 294,632 on the NPRM for definition of firearm frame/receiver that closed on 8/19, but as mail is processed this number will increase. Currently, the number of comments received on the NPRM for stabilizing braces that closed on 9/8 is 209,044, but as mail is received & processed that number will increase as well.”
The comments on the proposed brace ban were overwhelmingly negative, as many commenters accused the ATF of criminalizing law-abiding Americans while failing to substantively improve violence prevention.
“Banning the use of pistol braces will not lower gun crime rates,” Blake Nicholson said. “As a matter of fact it will only raise the gun crime by turning many law abiding gun owners into felons.”
Opponents of the proposed rule change are hopeful that their comments will make the agency rethink the pistol-brace policy, as it has in the past. In 2020, the ATF under the Trump administration proposed a similar ban, only to withdraw the proposal after more than 70,000 mostly negative comments. However, the Biden administration may have more resolve than its predecessor, despite facing greater backlash, due to the president’s enthusiasm for pursuing new gun control measures.
The Reload in Media
I was able to jump on Cam & Company on Thursday to discuss the end of the Chipman nomination. We talked about what pulling Chipman means for the President’s gun-control efforts and the media blackout on the stories that sunk his nomination. It’s a thorough conversation and Cam provides some great insight. Definitely give it a watch.
Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.