President Biden’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday stonewalled questions about whether he would turn over records related to allegations that Mr. Biden‘s son Hunter lied on a background check to buy a gun.
David Chipman, who has been nominated to lead the federal agency, said he would try to get records requested by Republican senators but cautioned that he would have to abide by ATF and Justice privacy policies.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, pressed Mr. Chipman on what more he would need to know to produce the documents.
“This matter has been all over the news. What else do you need to learn before you make a decision to do what I’ve asked you to do?” Mr. Grassley asked.
Mr. Chipman said he didn’t have enough information to know what records, if any, he could turn over.
“I am familiar with what I’ve seen in the news, but I think if I am confirmed as ATF director, it will be my responsibility to respond based on the facts, and I’m sure there will be more facts available to me if I’m confirmed,” Mr. Chipman responded.
Hunter Biden was among several issues Mr. Chipman faced during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Chipman said during the hearing he supports banning the AR-15, one of the most popular rifles in America. He endorsed a Democratic bill that would ban “assault weapons,” including the AR-15.
“With respect to the AR-15, I support a ban as it has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president,” he said. “The AR-15 is a gun I was issued on ATF’s SWAT team. It’s a particularly lethal weapon and regulating it as other particular lethal weapons I have advocated for.”
Mr. Chipman acknowledged that he wasn’t aware of any data that support claims that a ban on the weapons would be effective. He said studies on whether a ban would reduce gun violence have reached “mixed conclusions.”
While Mr. Chipman was pressed on gun issues facing the nation, he faced several questions from Republicans about Hunter Biden.
If [I become] ATF director, I will ensure that all violations of law are investigated and referred [for prosecution],” Mr. Chipman said. “I’m not sure that it has not been investigated.”
Republicans have pushed the ATF for the younger Mr. Biden’s gun application records after a March report in Politico raised questions about whether he provided false answers. Politico reported that the Secret Service intervened when Hunter Biden’s ex-girlfriend, Hallie Biden, who was also his former sister-in-law, threw Hunter Biden’s gun in a public trash can in Delaware in 2018.
When local police began investigating the incident, Secret Service agents showed up to the store where he bought the firearm and took the paperwork associated with the sale, Politico said. The owner of the shop at first refused to turn over the documents but eventually gave the records to the ATF, according to the report.
That has led some Republicans to accuse him of lying on the form, which would be a federal felony.
Mr. Grassley said Wednesday the ATF denied their request, citing the Freedom of Information Act. At the hearing, Mr. Grassley ripped the ATF’s response, noting that Congress is not subject to FOIA and described the agency’s decision as “incompetent.”
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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