David Chipman, President Biden’s choose to lead 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 imposing the nation’s gun legal guidelines.
But his feedback — together with a 2020 interview the place he jokingly likened the frenzied shopping for of weapons in the course of the coronavirus pandemic to a zombie apocalypse — have been the supply of repeated questions by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to a nominee they view as a severe menace.
“Many see putting a committed gun control proponent, like David Chipman, in charge of A.T.F. is like putting a tobacco executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, or antifa in charge of the Portland police department,” mentioned Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the rating member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As the listening to bought underway, information alerts of a capturing in San Jose that killed a number of individuals started pinging on lawmakers’ telephones. “It is not lost on me that there is another mass shooting,” mentioned Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.
The National Rifle Association has mounted a coordinated marketing campaign to sink Mr. Chipman’s nomination, citing his guarantees to regulate automated weapons and his assist of common background checks.
The N.R.A. has successfully exercised veto energy over the appointment of steady 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 put up 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 mentioned 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 selection to run his funds workplace.
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, grilled Mr. Chipman for saying in jest in an interview final yr that some first-time gun consumers have been making ready “for end times scenarios 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 have been “self-deprecating.” He additionally deflected questions on his progressive coverage advocacy by saying he seen 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 “offering me a Dr. Pepper” throughout a personal assembly the day earlier than.
Mr. Biden’s number of Mr. Chipman got here after an intense lobbying marketing campaign by gun security organizations, led by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords. In latest years, Mr. Chipman has labored with teams run by Ms. Giffords and Michael Bloomberg, the previous mayor of New York City, who additionally pressed for his choice.
The White House was initially reluctant to choose 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 House officers mentioned.
White House officers consider that Mr. Chipman has simply sufficient votes — 50 to 52 of their estimate — to overcome near-unanimous opposition by Republicans.
Two crucial Democratic swing votes, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have instructed Democratic leaders they’re doubtless 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.