Assault Weapon Ban

Biden's Nominee to Head the ATF, Who Wants Congress to Ban 'Assault Weapons,' Says He Can't Define Them

David Chipman's obfuscation, like the president's vagueness, is aimed at concealing the illogic of targeting firearms based on their "military-style" appearance.

|

President Joe Biden wants Congress to ban "assault weapons," and so does David Chipman, his nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). But neither Biden nor Chipman will say what that term means, and their obfuscation makes it impossible to take their proposal seriously.

Chipman, who worked as an ATF special agent for 25 years and later served as a senior policy adviser to the gun control group Giffords, was repeatedly asked to define assault weapon during his Senate confirmation hearing last month, and he repeatedly dodged the question. Given Chipman's long experience as both an ATF agent and a gun control advocate, his evasiveness cannot plausibly be ascribed to a lack of preparation or knowledge. Instead it seems to be an intentional strategy designed to avoid exposing the illogic of targeting firearms based on their "military-style" appearance.

"I have a simple question for you," Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) said. "What is an assault weapon?"

Chipman's answer not only was not simple; it was not really an answer at all. "An assault weapon would be, in the context of the question you asked, whatever Congress defines it as," he told Cotton. That much is true: The "assault weapon" legal category was invented by politicians, who define it however they want. But "in the context of the question" that Cotton asked—the scope of the federal ban that Biden and Chipman support—that observation clarified nothing. The senator wanted to know which firearms Chipman thinks Congress should ban, and the nominee replied that Congress would have to make that decision.

"You're asking us to ban assault weapons," Cotton noted. "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? How have you defined it over the last several years [in] your role as a gun control advocate?"

Chipman tried a different dodge, referring to an ATF requirement that federally licensed gun dealers near the southern border report multiple sales of certain rifles. "That program," he said, "has defined an assault rifle as any semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine" that holds ammunition "above the .22 caliber, which would include the .223, which is largely the AR-15 round."

That definition is much broader than the ones used in the 1994 federal "assault weapon" ban, which expired in 2004; the new, supposedly improved version backed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.); and state bans such as California's, which a federal judge recently deemed unconstitutional. While those laws do not refer to caliber, they list forbidden features such as folding stocks, pistol grips, barrel shrouds, and flash suppressors.

Since the ATF definition requires none of those features, it covers many firearms that remain legal in California and would remain legal under Feinstein's bill. Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 specifically exempts the Iver Johnson M1 carbine and the Ruger Mini-14 rifle, for example, as long as they have fixed stocks. Although a folding or adjustable stock does not make these guns any deadlier or render them easily concealable, Feinstein thinks it is enough to transform legitimate firearms into guns that are good for nothing but mass murder, which gives you a sense of the puzzling distinctions drawn by such laws.

The definition that Chipman cited, by contrast, encompasses both of these guns, regardless of whether they have fixed stocks. It also would cover the stripped-down, California-legal versions of AR-15-style rifles and all hunting rifles that accept detachable magazines and fire anything larger than .22 rounds. Cotton asked Chipman if he was suggesting that Congress should ban all of these guns, which lack the features that legislators have always used to define "assault weapons."

Chipman wouldn't say. "You asked me if ATF had used this term, and I was sharing with you my knowledge of a program in which ATF has defined this term," he told Cotton. But while the senator mentioned Chipman's possible role as director of the ATF, he also asked how Chipman has defined assault weapon "as a gun control advocate." Although that should not have been a hard question, answering it would have invited uncomfortable follow-up questions about the arbitrariness of "assault weapon" laws.

Instead Cotton made that point directly. "I think our exchange here illustrates that there really is no such thing as an assault weapon," he said. "That is a term that was manufactured by liberal lawyers and pollsters in Washington, to try to scare the American people into believing that the government should confiscate weapons that are wildly popular [among] millions of Americans to defend themselves and their families and their homes."

Later in the hearing, Sen. John Kennedy (R–La.) also asked Chipman to "define assault weapons." Chipman responded in the same maddening way he had to Cotton's question, saying "assault weapons would be something that members of Congress would define." When Kennedy pressed Chipman to say how Congress should do that and noted that he had "35 seconds left" in that round of questioning, the nominee claimed it was impossible to give a brief answer. "The bill to ban assault weapons is thousands of pages," he said. "There's no way I could define an assault weapon in 35 seconds." Presumably Chipman knows "assault weapons" when he sees them, but that subjective approach is inconsistent with the rule of law.

Contrary to Chipman's claim, Feinstein's bill is not "thousands of pages." It is 125 pages long, and most of that space is devoted to a redundant list of specifically permitted models. The general definition of rifles that qualify as "assault weapons" is just a few paragraphs. It includes any semi-automatic rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has "a pistol grip," "a forward grip," a folding or telescoping stock, "a grenade launcher," "a barrel shroud," or "a threaded barrel." Assuming that Chipman's definition is similar, he easily could have said so, even in 35 seconds. But then he might have been asked how these features—which have nothing to do with caliber, rate of fire, or muzzle velocity—make "assault weapons" an intolerable threat to public safety.

Biden himself has conceded that the 1994 "assault weapon" ban had no impact on the lethality of legally available firearms, precisely because manufacturers could comply with the law simply by eliminating the targeted features. The president supports a new ban that would somehow "stop gun manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor modifications to their products—modifications that leave them just as deadly." But Feinstein's bill would not accomplish that feat, and Biden has never explained how a ban based on a similar approach possibly could.

Chipman's reticence is of a piece with Biden's vagueness. It is impossible to rationally debate the merits of a policy when its advocates refuse to explain what they have in mind. That seems to be the point.

NEXT: City Building and Black Power

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If he worked for Giffords org he wants to ban detachable magazines and semi auto firearms. If Biden wants him it means they believe that as well. If reason koch liberaltarians had thought through the ramifications last year, maybe we could have avoided this.

      1. Spaz flag

        1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
          on this page…..VISIT HERE

    1. Reason just wants the right people to like them.

    2. visit here many sexy videos for full hd click here link……………VISIT HERE.

    3. An “assault rifle” is any gun a citizen can use to resist government tyranny.
      So pretty much any gun

      1. Apparently you don’t need any weapons to complete an insurrection.
        So I’ve heard.

    4. BUT WE GOT RID OF MEAN TWEETS! THATS THE IMPORTANT THING HERE! WHO CARES ABOUT VIOLATING RIGHTS AND THE CONSTITUION!

  2. New anti-crime bill:

    “What you have done is a felony.”

    Passes by partisan vote, w Kamaltoe breaking the tie in the Senate.

    1. Paint your horrible killer-assault-guns pastel pink and pastel purples, and all of their magical mass-murder cooties and icky-poos will we leeched OUT of them! They’ be what they are… merely cute, harmless tools for self-defense!

      See https://kittyhell.com/category/hello-kitty-guns/

      1. If you would make more posts like this, people would probably give you less of a hard time. Just sayin.

        Thanks for that link btw, it’s pretty funny.

        1. Spaz’s rep is such that who’s gonna waste time waiting for the one-in-a-ton non-tard comment?

          1. No one is gonna wait for it, but I believe in giving credit when it’s due.

        2. Pretty sure he’s not capable of refraining from consistently posting gibberish.

          1. Oh, I’m sure you’re right on that.

      2. Spaz flag

    2. Are they going after “super predators”
      again?

  3. ‘”An assault weapon would be, in the context of the question you asked, whatever Congress defines it as,” he told Cotton.”

    Is it time, yet, to hide my BB gun?

    1. Hide your slingshot too.

      1. AND your cross-bows and bows and arrows! https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/24/national/crossbow-possession-law/
        Japanese government adopts bill on crossbow regulations

        1. They need to ban sword canes too. Gotta stop the menace of Zatouichi.

      2. You got a license for that noife?

    2. Australia criminalized pellet guns too. When their military members are training on the base, they were carrying fake guns made of pipe. It was pitiful.

  4. Progressives frequently don’t know what they’re talking about, even when it’s their idea.

    1. ^this

  5. OT Happy Father’s Day.

    Your dad was Cooler than You.

  6. Biden stated the reasoning behind his administration when campaigning at the Iowa state fair last summer: “We choose Truth, not just facts.”
    Makes everything so much simpler.

  7. It means what ever they want it to, like “Human Rights” or “Climate Change”, or “Jumbo Shrimp”.

    1. It’s not that he can’t define an assault weapon, it’s that he won’t define an assault weapon, because he knows that the definition will be “evolving”.

      1. The term “assault weapon” was made up by the gun controllers in the 90s.

      2. “We are adding cishet shitlords to the list of items which are considered assault weapons.”

      3. The whole POINT of the term, “assault weapon”, was that it lacked an objective definition. That way, once they manage to ban them, they can call anything they want to ban an “assault weapon”.

        It was a deliberate strategy, crafting a name for the guns they wanted to ban, that would imply that they were select fire military arms, while actually meaning nothing.

        Josh Sugarman, of the VPC, came up with the term back in ’88. He bragged, “Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”

        1. Fortunately, I don’t own any Assault Weapons, I only own Fluffy Cuddle Bunny Weapons. And who could oppose those?

          1. “Fluffy Cuddle Bunny”

            I’ve seen some weird shit inscribed on receivers, but not that

          2. “Fluffy Cuddle Bunny”

            I’ve seen some weird shit inscribed on receivers, but not that

            1. And not a squirrel, either

            2. There used to be a company in Salt Lake City called “Fluffy Bunny Machine Guns.” Larry Correia was one of the partners.

  8. All this will go away pretty soon. The left is going to start seriously courting the blue collar white demo in the next ten years because those people fucking love communism socialism sharing the wealth. The bernie crowd is pro gun. Just watch.

    1. The left hates the working class.

      1. They hate minorities too. When has that stopped them?

      2. Criticize the strategy if you want, but abandoning the working class is the smartest thing the Democratic Party ever did.

        Back in the 1970s and 80s, when “the left” in the US generally represented the working class, the Democratic Presidential nominee was likely to lose in a landslide. Maybe even a 49-state humiliation.

        Since Democrats transitioned to being the party of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, multimillionaire entertainers, and billionaires, their electoral prospects have substantially improved. Now every Democrat who runs for President has already locked down a bare minimum of 200 to 220 Electoral Votes before the campaign even begins. (The Democrat is virtually guaranteed to win the popular vote as well.)

        #VoteDemocratToHelpTheRich

    2. Gun grabbers were among those buying in droves when pandemic hysteria hit. There may be a newfound appreciation for the second amendment among them or, in true proggie fashion, they may be all in on a ban now that they have theirs.

      1. Progressives always believe rules and laws apply differently to different people.

  9. According to longtime libertarian activist — and former Reason.com commenter — Michael Hihn, libertarians should demand comprehensive gun safety legislation. Now, obviously I voted for Biden mainly because I knew he’d be terrific for the richest people on the planet such as our benefactor Charles Koch. But common sense gun laws were also on my mind.

    #LibertariansForBiden
    #BanAssaultWeapons
    #UnbanMichaelHihn

  10. (Pssst… don’t spread this around, because we don’t want the politicians to EVER know about this: a couple of years ago I did some work on the BJS website, and I found out that the number one type of ammunition used in homicides is not the 5.56, but rather the 9mm. In fact, of the States I looked at (IIRC, twenty) the 9mm was the number one type of ammunition used in every State except one, where it was the .45. And the number two type of ammunition used in homicides in each of those other nineteen States: the .22LR. So, if you think the politicians won’t be after your rimfire guns just as soon as they think they can get away with it, you might be sadly mistaken. On the other hand, politicians almost never deal in facts, so maybe not.)

    1. How long has the 9mm been on top of the list? For many years, the small calibers like .22, and .25 were always on top. I’m guessing the new wave of high capacity, compact 9mm has changed all that.
      I’ll bet that the 5.56 didn’t even make the top ten.

      1. But as the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals put it, the AR, 5.56 round in whatever configuration may not kill many people, but if banning them had the effect of making the public “feel safer,” that was good enough for intermediate scrutiny.

        Like Old Joe said, “we deal in truth, not facts”

      2. “I’ll bet that the 5.56 didn’t even make the top ten.”

        A safe bet, especially considering that 90% or so of weapons chambered for the 5.56 are rifles, which are very seldom used in homicides.

    2. Dang, I wish you had provided a link. Now my productivity will go down the drain as I find out which state was .45… As a 45ACP/’LC’ guy, I am usually interested in that sort of thing. Call it in-group, something.

      1. That was research I did a few years ago, and I don’t think they indicated whether it was long Colt or ACP or whatever. I would assume ACP.

        Myself, I like a S/A Ruger .45 with some really hot loads 🙂

  11. In the meantime, states are passing 2nd Amendment protection bills under the aegis of the 10th Amendment and re-igniting the debate over interposition and nullification, which for some strange reason the declaration of “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants and the states’ legalization of marijuana contrary to federal law failed to re-ignite. Strange how the media will focus in on some issues and not others when the underlying issues are almost exactly the same.

    1. Curious, no? And it’s doubly amusing that it even comes up for discussion, since the States won that fight in front of the SCOTUS, IIRC, in 1854, and about four or five times since then.

    1. Assault face.

  12. Besides his contempt for human rights, that asshole has the most punchable face I’ve seen since that scumbag Peter Strzok.

    -jcr

    1. It is remarkably difficult to reply to this comment with my hands involuntarily curling into fists at the sight of that face. So, agreed.

    2. It seems to be becoming the standard. The Chief of Naval Operations condescended to a senator in hearings last week.

      1. Well, I can’t really feel too bad about that, though I suppose it depends on the subject, since I’d probably be pretty condescending towards senators myself if I were ever unlucky enough to get stuck in a room with one. But this guy is just being a waffling little bitch, and has a face that even a mother would punch.

  13. I wonder how they define .22 caliber? Because .22 LR is actually .224

    1. What does it matter? It gives a completely free pass to the .204 Ruger and any other .17 or .20 caliber wildcat! 20 Ruger or 20 Practical is only a barrel change away. But good luck buying ammo in the next few months.

    2. I am pretty sure what they actually mean is “rimfire,” but they probably don’t know enough about firearms to know the difference.

      1. Well, even a .50 is really fine, as long as it doesn’t have a shoulder thing that goes up.

    3. “I wonder how they define .22 caliber? Because .22 LR is actually .224”

      The Remington .222, the Winchester .223, the 220 Swift, the .221 Fireball, the 22-250, and others, all utilize the same bullets. The “caliber” can refer the bore diameter, the groove diameter, or, as listed above, neither of those items.

  14. Does the dumb fuck realize that since the last un Constitutional AWB expired, weve bought the Love Boat full of ARs?

    That horse done left the barn

    What he means is confiscation and it WILL start a war.

    1. Well you’d think an administration on the up and up would wait after a 9th circuit judge just declared assault weapons bans unconstitutional, before proposing to ban them all.

      I especially liked the Gutierrez decision citing Miller for the proposition that the 2nd amendment protects arms “suitable for the militia”, which means of course the ‘weapons of war’ trope is a feature, not a bug for ‘assault weapons’.

      That was well done, stare decisis makes Miller good law because it has not been overruled, just clarified. Miller plus Heller = The Nuts (in poker terminology of course).

  15. Oh Geesch… this article is like red meat to the lion and will probably get a billion comments. But you have to wonder about comments about limited government from gun nuts who at the same time want to restrict the rights of women who get pregnant and don’t want to have a kid. Maybe they just haven’t seen a vagina and don’t know anything. Don’t know. But if you support government intervention on one issue and not on other issues it doesn’t really make you a libertarian. A person with preferred policy preferences, certainly, but not a libertarian.

    1. So many straw men in one post.

      1. It’s all the weight he can carry.

    2. Recommendation:

      Read up on minarchism and “the night-watchman state” and you might be able to discriminate between libertarians and those who merely like to call themselves libertarians.

    3. “…But if you support government intervention on one issue and not on other issues it doesn’t really make you a libertarian…”

      Gonna guess that commie kid never learned ANYTHING outside the classroom walls of government schools.
      As an example, this lefty pile of shit is incapable of discriminating between anarchists and libertarians.
      Hint, asshole: Libertarians oppose bank robbery and support government action to punish it. We also oppose parasitic lefty shits like you baling on your commitments and (like commies everywhere) leaving honest people to clean up your mess; shame that’s not illegal.
      Fuck off and die.

    4. Awesome! It’s my favorite #AbortionAboveAll “socia1ist” once again showing what his real priorities are.

      One small piece of criticism, though. Remember, to be truly intersectional you must refer to “birthing people” rather than “women.” Your science classes should have taught you that transmen and nonbinary people can get pregnant too.

    5. We’re not against women’s rights. We’re for the rights of the child. As someone who subscribes to the same belief system that allowed multiple regimes around the world to brutally murder over 100 million people during the 20th century, of course you’re for policies that murder babies.

      1. Why would a child have any right to the use of a woman’s uterus?

        1. Why would libertarians be so autistic, as to think that a human child is a trespasser in its’ mother’s body?

          1. The y chromosome is in the case of rape.

        2. Imagine you own some property. For one reason or another a squatter has taken up residency in your property. You have every right to evict him but he is extremely ill and will die if he is moved. He doesn’t have any right to use the premises, but he has a right to life which has to be balanced against your property rights. The real question is when can he claim a right to life. If he has reached that point, you can’t ethically evict him unless not evicting him affects your right to life. It’s not a great analogy, but it is better than “muh body”.

  16. Thank you So much for sharing this useful information, I was searching this from last one month I found this article really helpful. Definitely going to check out the info you shared. This great article and am highly impressed on it keep up your good work. Login Help

  17. Chipman also (allegedly) lost his weapon when he was an ATF agent. And he has refused to allow the release of his employment records, which would settle whether or not it happened.

    1. My only though since Biden picked Chippy is that he’s playing a game. I mean he’s gone so totally batshit in the first choice so that the next choice, while still totally batshit, will almost appear sane by comparison. It actually strikes me as their main tactic. Go totally bonkers on the first run like Sheila Jackson Lee’s HR 127 so that anything else might look “rational” in comparison.

      Unfortunately it seems to be working on the batshit crazy multi-billion dollar “covid”, “infrastructure”, or “jobs” bills but team blue seems intent on jamming those down our throats largely because they can.

      1. The weird thing about the Biden presidency is that we really don’t know who is running things.

        I know it was a trope when GWB was president that he was too dumb so Cheney ran the country, but Biden pretty clearly has cognitive issues and basically does what his staff tells him. Harris obviously isn’t running anything. So who?

        1. His “team”. I’m guessing it is the equivalent of the DNC wet dream team.

          1. Ew. Someone pass the brain bleach, please.

        2. “The weird thing about the Biden presidency is that we really don’t know who is running things.”

          Sure we do. Harris is in charge. Biden has even referred to her as President Harris.

        3. but Biden pretty clearly has cognitive issues

          Worse the Reagan at the tail end of his 2nd term.

  18. make your business go online with best app development company in jaipur https://www.searchnplays.com .

  19. The definition of an assault weapon is easy: any weapon you assault someone with. It is going to be one hell of a long list, and put a lot of stress on people and industry, as we see everything from butter knifes to tire irons banned.

    1. Construction Industry Hardest Hit.

      Man, framing a house with one of those toy squeaky hammers is going to *suck*.

      1. Hire a martial arts master to teach them how to drive nails with their thumbs.

        1. So the gun control lobby is ready just Big Martial Arts playing 5-D chess?

          1. Really just

    2. Take a look at what is going on in Great Britain as a cautionary tale

  20. The so called “Assault Weapon” and attempts to ban, have nothing to do about making life safer for ordinary citizens, but rather to make life easier and safer for liberal politicians and bureaucrats to maintain power.

  21. I wonder if Chipman was involved in the Good Ol’ Boys Roundup.

    1. I remember that; they put up signs that read “nigger hunting licenses” etc.

      According to wiki, it was still going on in 1995

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Ol%27_Boys_Roundup

    2. Another reason to not want to release his record

  22. Cool rehash of a breaking story from April. Now GFY for helping usher in the Biden era

  23. These gun control advocates do not like the 2nd amendment, but are shamefully shy about admitting this.
    What other parts of the Bill of Rights are they also opposed to? Is the Constitution the law of the land or not? These are deceitful people. Leaders? I think not.

    1. “What other parts of the Bill of Rights are they also opposed to?”

      Whatever part gets in their way at a given time.

  24. Just a reminder that this dude was involved with burning children alive at Waco and selling guns to Mexican cartels to shoot American border patrol agents with.

    If he gets appointed one can only assume the Biden administration and the 50 Senators who vote “yes” are pro-burning children alive. I don’t make the narrative rules, just have to play by them.

  25. The reason they focus on lethality is because that’s their ticket to a complete gun ban. Guns cannot become non-lethal and are dangerous regardless of enhancements and features. A M1911 is dangerous whether it was manufactured in 1911 or 2021.

    Lethality arguments should be dismissed at face value. They are a complete farce.

  26. A total nutcase in China went after a group of children at a school with a knife. He wounded 17 of them, but not a single one died. Arguing over labels as to what constitutes an “assault rifle” has little value. But thank God this guy did not have access to one.

    1. Number of people in the US who own an AR or similar variant:

      20 million

      How many people are killed, on avergge, with ANY type of “long gun” [rifles, of any type or caliber; shotguns, of any gauge] in the US:

      340

      You do the math, and tell me, just why are some so hell bent to ban them, and just what purpose would that serve?

      1. 20 million and one. I’m going to be acquiring mine soon.

  27. This is dumb. A definition for an assault weapon should be pretty easy. You can define it in terms of

    1) How many bullets per second can be fired without pause (an AR15 can fire 400 rounds per minute).
    2) The explosive power of the bullets and the damage they cause due to the high velocity

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/what-i-saw-treating-the-victims-from-parkland-should-change-the-debate-on-guns/553937/

    Appearance of the gun has nothing to do with it. You can regulate these army-type weapons without inhibiting self defense at all. You don’t need to fire 400 rounds per minute using bullets that leave an exit wound the size of an orange to defend yourself or to kill deer.

    1. 1) How many bullets per second can be fired without pause (an AR15 can fire 400 rounds per minute).
      2) The explosive power of the bullets and the damage they cause due to the high velocity

      You just described semi-automatic weapons of all types larger than a .22

    2. You don’t need to fire 400 rounds per minute using bullets that leave an exit wound the size of an orange to defend yourself

      Oh, yes I do.

    3. that gun is not my hunting rifle…it’s my self defense rifle and i assure you you will be glad the day you need someone to level one in your defense of person. call i whatever you want…it will never be any of your business what i choose to use for my own reasons. nunya bidnis

  28. Based on the photo, Chipmonk is the better spelling…

  29. this is what happens when folks that don’t have any experience in the matters they seek to regulate are forced to defend their uninformed opinions. i’m guessing he has little if any experience handling firearms and refuses to be informed or trained as one seeking to speak with authority ought to.

  30. Based on the photo, Chipmonk is the better spelling…

    Freshreporter

  31. You just described semi-automatic weapons of all types larger than a .22

    Download Nigeria Music Album Zip

  32. The definition of an assault weapon is easy: any weapon you assault someone with.
    wordsera.in

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.