President Joe Biden's radically pro-gun control nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives confirmed Wednesday, when pressed by Republican senators, that he supports a ban on a wide range of so-called "assault-style weapons," which include more rifles than just an AR-15.
David Chipman, a longtime gun control lobbyist with more than two decades experience working for ATF, faced questions from several Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans on his views on guns, admitting to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that he supports a ban on AR-15 rifles and would enforce such a ban if Congress were to legislate one.
"Mr. Chipman, a minute ago Sen. Whitehouse asked you if any of your views on guns are out of step with a majority of the American people. The AR-15 is one of, if not the most popular rifle in America. It's not a machine gun, it's a rifle. Your public position is that you want to ban AR-15s, is that correct?" Cruz asked.
"With respect to the AR-15, I support a ban," Chipman answered. "The AR-15 is a gun I was issued on ATF's S.W.A.T team and it's a particularly lethal weapon and regulating it as other particularly lethal weapons, I have advocated for."
Chipman works as a senior policy adviser at Giffords, a gun control advocacy group let by former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was severely injured in a shooting attack in 2011. In that capacity, he has advocated for limits on high-capacity magazines and a federal assault weapons ban.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and others pressed Chipman to define the term "assault weapons," which some gun control proponents with limited knowledge of firearms have come to use as a catch-all phrase to describe guns they don't like.
Cotton wanted specifics, asking, "What is an assault weapon?"
"Senator, an assault weapon would be — in the context of the question you asked — what Congress defines it as," Chipman answered in an attempt to dodge the question.
"So you're asking us to ban assault weapons, we have to write legislation, can you tell me what is an assault weapon? How would you define it if you were the head of the ATF?" Cotton pressed.
Chipman eventually cited the ATF to define an assault rifle as "any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine above the caliber of .22."
"I"m amazed that might be the definition of an assault weapon," Cotton said. "That would basically cover every single modern sporting rifle in America today."