David Chipman, President Biden’s decide to steer 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 partially 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 through 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 control of A.T.F. is like placing a tobacco government in control of the Division of Well being and Human Companies, or antifa in control 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 acquired underway, information alerts of a capturing in San Jose that killed a number of folks started pinging on lawmakers’ telephones. “It’s not misplaced on me that there’s one other mass capturing,” 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 control automated weapons and his assist of common background checks.
The N.R.A. has successfully exercised veto energy over the appointment of secure 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 publish by former President Donald J. Trump.
The gun foyer had led a decades-long marketing campaign to hobble the A.T.F., by combating 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 finances workplace.
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, grilled Mr. Chipman for saying in jest in an interview final yr that some first-time gun patrons had been getting ready “for finish occasions situations 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 non-public assembly the day earlier than.
Mr. Biden’s choice of Mr. Chipman got here after an intense lobbying marketing campaign by gun security organizations, led by former Consultant Gabrielle Giffords. In recent times, 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 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 yr, White Home officers stated.
White Home officers imagine that Mr. Chipman has simply sufficient votes — 50 to 52 of their estimate — to beat near-unanimous opposition by Republicans.
Two important Democratic swing votes, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have instructed Democratic leaders they’re more likely to assist his nomination, offered the hearings go properly. Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, haven’t dominated out supporting him.