David Chipman, President Biden’s decide to guide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, confronted withering criticism throughout his affirmation listening to Wednesday from Republican senators over his historical past of scathing feedback about gun possession.
Mr. Chipman, a two-decade veteran of the A.T.F. who has served as an adviser to gun management teams, was chosen partly due to his willingness to bluntly confront an trade that has handcuffed the federal company tasked with implementing the nation’s gun legal guidelines.
However his feedback — together with a 2020 interview the place he jokingly likened the frenzied shopping for of weapons in the course of the coronavirus pandemic to a zombie apocalypse — had been the supply of repeated questions by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to a nominee they view as a severe menace.
“Many see placing a dedicated gun management proponent, like David Chipman, in command of A.T.F. is like placing a tobacco govt in command of the Division of Well being and Human Companies, or antifa in command of the Portland police division,” stated Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the rating member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Because the listening to obtained underway, information alerts of a taking pictures in San Jose that killed a number of folks started pinging on lawmakers’ telephones. “It isn’t misplaced on me that there’s one other mass taking pictures,” stated Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.
The Nationwide Rifle Affiliation has mounted a coordinated marketing campaign to sink Mr. Chipman’s nomination, citing his guarantees to manage automated weapons and his assist of common background checks.
The N.R.A. has successfully exercised veto energy over the appointment of steady everlasting management on the bureau, blocking a number of would-be A.T.F. administrators, together with a conservative police union official tapped for the submit by former President Donald J. Trump.
The gun foyer had led a decades-long marketing campaign to hobble the A.T.F., by preventing funding will increase and scuttling efforts to modernize its paper-based system of monitoring firearms.
Republicans stated Mr. Chipman’s penchant for provocation made him an unacceptable selection, hoping to scuttle his nomination simply as a historical past of inflammatory posts on Twitter doomed the nomination of Neera Tanden, Mr. Biden’s first option to run his price range workplace.
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, grilled Mr. Chipman for saying in jest in an interview final 12 months that some first-time gun patrons had been making ready “for finish instances eventualities and zombie apocalypses.”
Mr. Chipman, who appeared to attempt to keep away from getting right into a back-and-forth with Republicans, responded that these remarks had been “self-deprecating.” He additionally deflected questions on his progressive coverage advocacy by saying he considered himself as “a cop.”
A couple of minutes later, after Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, criticized him for calling for restrictions on AR-15-style rifles, Mr. Chipman thanked the senator for “providing me a Dr. Pepper” throughout a personal assembly the day earlier than.
Mr. Biden’s number of Mr. Chipman got here after an intense lobbying marketing campaign by gun security organizations, led by former Consultant Gabrielle Giffords. Lately, Mr. Chipman has labored with teams run by Ms. Giffords and Michael Bloomberg, the previous mayor of New York Metropolis, who additionally pressed for his choice.
The White Home was initially reluctant to pick out a nominee who would provoke such intense opposition, however Mr. Biden determined he wanted to take an opportunity after the mass killings in Atlanta and Boulder earlier this 12 months, White Home officers stated.
White Home officers consider that Mr. Chipman has simply sufficient votes — 50 to 52 of their estimate — to beat near-unanimous opposition by Republicans.
Two essential Democratic swing votes, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have advised Democratic leaders they’re prone to assist his nomination, supplied the hearings go nicely. Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, haven’t dominated out supporting him.