Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today questioned David Chipman, President Biden’s nominee to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. She opened by raising today’s shooting in San Jose, Calif.
Video of the exchange is available here, and a full transcript follows:
Senator Feinstein: “While we are sitting here, we have a gunman in [San Jose] shooting down people. The press say, at this time, maybe six to seven people have been killed. Mr. Chipman, gun violence is so prevalent in this country. What are the first steps you will take to do something about it, if any?”
David Chipman: “I wanted to say thank you for that question, but first, I’m sorry to hear that news. I wasn’t aware of that. If I’m confirmed as ATF director, one of our priorities at ATF will be focusing on gun trafficking – the unlawful transfer of legal guns to criminals. And perhaps in this case a crime like this could be prevented. So as ATF tries to solve crimes, we will have to strive just as hard to prevent them from ever happening in the first place.”
Senator Feinstein: “I guess I’ve been listening to these questions being asked and responded to for more than 20 years now and nothing changes on the streets. And I think we all need to think a little bit about that. This is a gun-happy nation, and everybody can have their gun. But what is happening out there in the killing of innocents should be protected by our laws. And unfortunately we’re not making the laws that could protect people in this kind of gun crimes.
“Last fiscal year the number of inventory inspections conducted by ATF to ensure that weapons are not diverted to criminals fell to just over 5,800. And my understanding, that’s down from 13,000 in fiscal year 2019. So your department is sitting by and all of this is happening. At the same time, gun sales were spiking around the nation. Even before the pandemic, ATF inspected less than 15 percent of licensed dealers in a year. So I’m not a great fan of those numbers. If confirmed, what will you do specifically to increase the number of ATF inspections?”
David Chipman: “It’s a very important question. If confirmed, very early on in my tenure I want to find out the reasons for that drop in statistics. One things strikes me is I’m unsure how COVID impacted the ATF workforce, but certainly when just looking at the number, we have to ensure that ATF inspectors are targeting those firearms dealers most at-risk. I also see in those numbers that a large percentage of the inspections resolved in no findings, which suggests that in those cases, the dealer is compliant. So I think a whole review of what’s going on to make sure that the limited resources that ATF are used efficiently to further this mission is absolutely critical and thank you for bringing up this important point.”
Senator Feinstein: “I will do everything within my power to see that you have the staff to do this if you really show that you’re going to do it. Because I am increasingly concerned as the numbers of mass shootings go up, people dying – and that is happening on our streets right now. Gun sales are spiking across the nation, and ATF’s record has decreased, as I understand it, down to 15 percent of licensed dealers being inspected in a year. Is that a correct figure? It was in the New York Times, 5/2/21.”
David Chipman: “It is my understanding that ATF has not yet been able to meet a self-imposed goal of inspecting dealers every three years. It’s something that ATF is mandated to do with explosives dealers, so I think it’s a good goal. Again, if I’m confirmed I will get to the bottom of this situation and I thank you for your dedication in doing what you can to provide ATF the resources to get this important mission done.”