The Reload launch sale is coming to an end as June approaches. Now is your last chance to take advantage of our special 30 percent off sale before it goes away. If you want to get The Reload analysis newsletter and member exclusive posts, you can pick up a membership for $7 a month or $70 a year until the end of May.
There are just 3 Co-Founders memberships left before those go away as well.
I’m looking forward to the range day with my fellow Co-Founders on June 12. If you want to help make The Reload sustainable, get a lifetime membership, and join me to shoot some sporting clays next month, then you should buy a Co-Founders membership before they’re gone for good.
Now, on to the news.
This week President Biden’s nominee to run the ATF, David Chipman, faced his first major test. His hearing was filled with apologies and doubling down, but he can still win ugly if Democrats can keep moderate senators in line. Permitless carry expanded to its biggest state yet, and momentum for the policy is likely to carry on to more states. Plus, an update on the struggle over the future of the NRA.
Moderate senators from either side of the aisle who will ultimately decide the fate of President Biden’s ATF nominee kept their cards close to the chest after Wednesday’s heated Judiciary Committee hearing.
Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), Susan Collins (R., Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) did not respond to requests for comment. Senators Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Jon Tester (D., Mont.), and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said they are still closely examining Chipman’s record.
“Senator Toomey has not yet made a decision regarding David Chipman’s nomination to lead the ATF,” Steve Kelly, Toomey’s spokesperson, told The Reload.
Chipman repeatedly apologized during the hearing for his comments mocking new gun owners, spreading a lie about helicopters being shot down during the ATF’s Waco siege in 1993, and saying silencer reform only benefited criminals and gun lobbyists. He also stood by his contention that sales of “assault weapons” should be banned and current owners should be forced to register them with the ATF during the hearing but refused to offer a definition for what “assault weapons” actually are. His refusal to define the term led to several heated exchanges with Republicans on the committee, but his support for banning and registering them also sets him far apart from moderate Senate Democrats.
Asked if Manchin supports the policy Chipman championed during the hearing, the senator’s communications director Sam Runyan pointed to Manchin’s votes against previous “assault weapons” bans and ammunition magazine limits. But she told The Reload she did not have a statement on how Manchin will vote on Chipman or when he plans to meet with him.
“At the time, I did my best to communicate, and clearly I fell short,” David Chipman said as part of multiple attempts to walk back controversial statements during a Senate hearing. “I will try to do better.”
Chipman, the former ATF agent whom President Joe Biden nominated to head the agency, had several heated exchanges with Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee Wednesday. He faced repeated questions about his past comments advocating expansive new gun bans, belittling first-time gun owners, and falsely claiming helicopters were shot down during the disastrous 1993 siege of a cult compound in Waco, Texas. Chipman apologized for several of his previous comments while standing behind policy positions he took while working for multiple gun-control organizations.
ATF directors have been difficult to confirm in recent years with the last confirmation coming in 2011. Chipman’s time working for gun-control groups already made his confirmation a difficult task in a divided Senate where moderate Democrats have significant say over the confirmation. His record of controversial statements and continued support for gun-control policies well beyond what many Democrats in the Senate support could hurt Chipman’s chances of getting confirmed to the role.
Chipman stood by his call to ban popular rifles including the AR-15, which he described as “particularly lethal,” during his testimony. He said he not only supports a ban on the sale of guns but also a requirement to register currently-owned ones with the ATF. He said AR-15s and other guns should be regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA), which would subject them to a $200 tax stamp and put the same restriction on them as is currently applied to machine guns.
This nomination was a significant political risk for Biden, but confirming Chipman would be an even bigger risk for Senate Democrats. Chipman is strongly backed by gun-control groups who want the former ATF agent to strengthen the agency’s hand. But gun-rights groups and the industry are equally opposed to him out of concern he’ll aggressively expand the agency’s power.
The appointment of a literal gun-control activist to head the regulatory agency in charge of enforcing the nation’s gun laws will give gun voters another reason to turn out in the midterm elections. With Chipman’s longtime support for gun-control proposals far more strict than those supported by moderate senators, voting for him could specifically hurt them in their next reelection campaigns.
Permitless gun carry continued its sweep across the nation on Monday as the Texas legislature adopted the policy on Monday.
The nation’s second-largest state became the 21st to drop the permit requirement. The bill allows Texans over the age of 21 to carry a gun unless they are prohibited from owning a gun under federal or state law. The policy has quickly become the most popular state-level gun legislation over the past decade, with only Alaska and Vermont adopting it before 2010.
“This is something that 20 other states have adopted, and it’s time for Texas to adopt it, too,” Republican Governor Greg Abbott told WBAP last month. The bill now heads to his desk. “I’ll be signing it,” he told the news station.
Permitless carry, sometimes referred to as “Constitutional carry,” is now nearly the most common kind of gun-carry law in the United States. 21 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted shall-issue laws, where a permit is required to carry a gun, but the government must issue a permit to those who apply and qualify for one. Eight states have may-issue laws where a permit is required, but government officials can deny permits on a subjective basis if they don’t feel the applicant has a “good reason” to carry a gun.
There will be no appeal to the dismissal of the NRA’s bankruptcy.
The last-ditch effort by a group of unhappy NRA board members to wrestle control of the group away from CEO Wayne LaPierre and his allies through bankruptcy fell flat this week. Phillip Journey, who led the effort, told The Reload his group could not raise enough money to pursue the appeal.
“I think it was the best route to help resolve things and fix them,” he said. “I just can’t pay the freight. That’s really it.”
Journey attempted to raise $100,000 in a week to fund the last-ditch appeal effort but fell short.
The NRA’s announced it would go into federal bankruptcy on Jan. 15, 2021, as part of a strategy to block New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D.) attempt to dissolve the group in state court. While most board members retroactively approved the bankruptcy, Journey and two other board members objected to LaPierre leaving board members in the dark about the filing beforehand. The group filed a motion in the case requesting the judge appoint an examiner to look through the NRA’s books for further evidence of financial impropriety.
When the case was dismissed, so were the dissident group’s hopes for a court-appointed audit. Journey decided the best path forward was to try and appeal in hopes a trustee would be appointed to displace LaPierre and a committee of NRA members would be created to oversee the group’s restructuring. With that path now blocked, he said he might try to intervene in the New York case but admitted it was even more of a longshot, since that effort would be even more expensive.
“If we can’t get the money for the appeal, how are we ever gonna do five times that?” he said.
Outside The Reload
The Reload in the Media
I got up at 3:45 am on Wednesday to talk about Texas adopting permitless carry. It was a solid, reasoned interview, which isn’t always a given when it comes to cable news interviews. You can watch the full interview here. And, yes, I went right back to bed after it ended. It was still pitch black outside!
I also appeared on Cam & Company with Cam Edwards at Bearing Arms to discuss David Chipman’s hearing and where things go from here.
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.