NRA is bankrupt but still owns the US firearms agency
Tthe NRA declared bankruptcy; its longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, has been disgraced, causing the gun rights group to back down.
Yet the NRA is still a force powerful enough in Washington politics to derail President Biden’s efforts to install a Senate-confirmed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) leader, once recalling plus to gun control advocates how steep the climb is. is to achieve reasonable regulation of firearms.
While mired in a myriad of scandals in Washington, the NRA still has a dedicated following in communities across America who aren’t bothered by the mainstream media coverage of LaPierre living the high life on pennies. the NRA, or his botched elephant shot in Botswana. They see it as the elites “coming after us” and coming to get their weapons. Bringing down another ATF candidate is the kind of fight the NRA loves, said Jim Kessler, who cut his teeth on Capitol Hill working on the assault gun ban in the ’90s.
“The ATF director is on page 12 (of the newspaper) if he’s on any page,” Kessler continued. “It’s their kind of fight, where they’re the only ones who really care.” Most Americans don’t focus on who will lead the ATF, and when President Biden withdrew his appointment from former ATF agent David Chipman earlier this month, he received little notice, although this was only the second time Biden has withdrawn a Senate-confirmed appointment. (The other was Neera Tanden for OMB.)
The NRA did not act alone. He was helped and encouraged by a set of nested groups with lower national profiles. Among them is the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut, just two miles from the school where 20 first graders were shot in December 2012. The NSSF lobbying campaign helped persuade Senator Angus King of Maine to oppose Chipman. King, an independent who caucus with the Democrats and voted yes on background checks after the Sandy Hook shooting when several swing state Democrats voted no, didn’t want to oppose the sportsmen this time around and, with the 50 Republicans opposed, it turned out to be politically fatal.
The die was cast almost from the opening salvo with more recent groups like the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) and BidenNoms.com “determined to tackle the dirty, spread lies, spread rumors and see which one sticks, ”says a gun safety advocate who was not authorized to speak officially. “It was a total smear campaign.” The most powerful charge, the one that led to the most threats against Chipman and his family was “WACO Dave”, a photo of an agent believed to be Chipman in camouflage pants holding an assault rifle in Waco, Texas, where federal agents raided a Davidian Branch compound. The photo was taken at the end of a 51-day siege in April 1993 that killed four ATF operatives as well as 76 branch Davidians, including group leader David Koresh, and numerous children, who are dead when fire engulfed their complex. Cited by the right as an example of government drift, the invocation of Waco inspires an almost religious fervor.
But Chipman was never in the FBI, and he was not in Waco during the siege. (He was tasked with investigating what happened afterward, which was all his bad guys needed to fuel their disinformation campaign.) Chipman, now in his mid-fifties, is 25 years old. as an agent of the ATF, where he worked closely with the head of the NSSF. lobbyist, Larry Keane, on building safety training programs, only to see Keane and the NSSF take the initiative to circulate a photo with fake information about him that they knew was wrong.
Asked about it, Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the NSSF, said: “We reported that this was published by the Daily Mail and that it was a suspected photo. We took him off our website several months later when he was disowned.
Another bogus story claiming that Chipman left his gun in a public restroom while with the ATF has turned out to be unfounded. Any officer who makes this mistake has to fill out tons of paperwork, and there is no evidence to support the charge. Mark Oliva said the NSSF “gave no credibility” to this story. Yet it was all over the media MAGA, promoted by the American Accountability Project, with a claim that Chipman was a racist. In 25 years, two complaints have been filed against him, one relating to race, the other to age. Neither complainant came forward while being considered for the ATF position.
Heritage Action for America, a spin-off of the Reagan-era think tank, the Heritage Foundation, quickly claimed the appointment of a “radical anti-Second Amendment activist”, thanks to the popular activism of its 2, 1 million supporters.
“It’s a powerhouse and they’re auctioning off the conservative ecosystem,” says Kessler, now part of Third Way, a think tank that started out as a gun control group. “They are MAGA hat wearers with a political strategy.” Heritage Action ranks lawmakers on key votes in its legislative dashboard, assigning percentage scores where the NRA assigns alphabetical scores. These dashboards are powerful motivators, especially in rural communities.
Gun safety advocates believed Biden had found the ideal ATF leader in Chipman, who knew how the place worked and was known as a reformer. He left the ATF almost ten years ago and was recently affiliated with Giffords, the gun safety group named after former Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords, who was seriously injured in a shooting on the parking lot of a supermarket in 2011.
For years the NRA had talked about abolishing the ATF, but when it came close to being brought into the FBI under Reagan and again under Bush in the post 9/11 government reforms, “it was the last thing ‘they wanted, “Kessler said. . “They want the ATF to be beaten but still standing.”
The NRA lobbied in 2006 for the director of the ATF to be a Senate confirmed post, then blocked all but one candidate through its many allies on Capitol Hill. The only exception was Obama candidate Byron Todd Jones, who was interim director when he got Senate confirmation in July 2013. He left in early 2015 to join the NFL as the new discipline director. President Trump’s candidate, Chuck Canterbury, a former police union official, did not fare much better despite Trump’s close relationship with the NRA, which takes credit for his election in 2016 by motivating them. rural voters in record numbers. Trump was forced to withdraw his appointment because of a trivial comment Canterbury made about the value of background checks.
The White House is working with Senator King to find a candidate he can support, but that will likely not happen until early next year. In the meantime, there are critical challenges for the ATF. The biggest fight is over ghost weapons, which are not regulated in the same way as traditional firearms and have become the dominant weapon scavenged in crimes. The ATF has the power to enact rules on phantom weapons and suspenders by the end of the year. Arm splints are used to stabilize the arm so that more cartridges can be fired quickly.
“No senior director makes it difficult, but the ATF can still do a lot,” said Zack DiGregorio, EveryTown national press secretary. “The gun lobby may continue to push disinformation all day long, but the NRA is a shell of itself, and the country still strongly supports gun safety. It’s really hard to fight a 90-10 problem. One of the only places where background checks are controversial is the United States Senate. “