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Archive for May 27th, 2021

Biden’s Pick to Lead ATF Faces Criticism Over Position on Gun Control

Former ATF Agent David Chipman, via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling

David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to lead the ATF, faced strong criticism from Senate Republicans during a confirmation hearing Wednesday over his position on gun control. 

Chipman, a gun owner and former ATF agent, has advocated for firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons. 

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Chipman said he supports a ban on AR-15s, an assault rifle used in many mass shootings. 

“I support a ban as has been presented in a Senate bill and supported by the president. The AR-15 is a gun I was issued on ATF’s swat team and it’s a particularly lethal weapon and regulating it as other particularly lethal weapons, I have advocated for,” Chipman said, The Hill reports.

“As ATF director, if I’m confirmed, I would simply enforce the laws in the books and right now, there is no such ban on those guns,” he added.

At the beginning of the hearing, committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill, warned Chipman that he would face criticism from Republicans. 

“Buckle your seat belt. You want to be the head of the ATF. Hang on tight. They’re coming after you, buddy,” Durbin said. “It’s going to be rough at times.”

And at times, it was. 

Chipman was questioned about an interview last year in which he compared the rampant increase in gun ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic to a zombie apocalypse. 

“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,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

During the hearing, lawmakers began getting news alerts about a mass shooting in San Jose, Calif. 

“It is not lost on me that there is another mass shooting,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. 

In April, the NRA announced its plans to oppose Chipman’s nomination as part of a $2 million campaign to fight gun-control measures. https://www.ticklethewire.com/2021/04/22/conservative-republicans-nra-wage-battle-against-bidens-nominee-to-head-atf/

President Biden has faced pressure by gun control groups to pick someone to head the ATF, which has been without a permanent director since 2015 as the nation continues to grapple with mass shootings. 

As vice president, Biden recommended in 2013 that President Obama pick a Senate-confirmed ATF director. Obama followed through with the confirmation of B. Todd Jones in 2013, but Jones resigned in 2015, and the agency has been without a permanent director since. 

Whether Biden can muster the 51 votes required to confirm a permanent leader is an open question. Republicans have blocked ATF candidates who were far friendlier to the pro-gun base. 

Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Albany Field Office Retires After 25 Years with Bureau

Special Agent Thomas Relford.

By Steve Neavling

Thomas Relford, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office, retired Wednesday after 25 years with the bureau. 

Relford, who was appointed to head the field office in May 2020, plans to return to his home state of Missouri “to enjoy some long overdue family time,” Relford said in a statement.

“I’m incredibly proud of my 25-year career with the FBI, and especially lucky to end it on such a high note as head of the Albany field office,” Relford said.

Relford joined the bureau as a special agent in 1996 at the New Orleans Field Office, investigating criminal and counterterrorism cases. In 2005, he was promoted to supervisor of the Baton Rouge Resident Agency in Louisiana, overseeing investigative programs.

In 2008, Relford became the legal attaché in Dakar, Senegal, where he oversaw investigations in 11 Western and Central African countries and served as FBI liaison to local law enforcement and government agencies. In 2010, he went to Nairobi, Kenya, to serve as legal attaché for three years. Relford was responsible for the oversight and investigative programs in five countries, including the probe into the 2010 World Cup bombing in Kampala, Uganda.

In 2013, Relford was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Kansas City Field Office, where he was in charge of the National Security Branch. In 2015, he led the Criminal and Administrative Branch. He was promoted in 2018 to inspector in the Inspector Division at headquarters, where he inspected investigative and administrative programs of the bureau nationwide.

Before the FBI, Relford served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for four years and earned a bachelor of science from the University of Missouri and a masters of public administration from Troy University.

“My work has taken me all over the world, but I truly believe I was meant to spend this last year serving the amazing people of the Capital Region, Central New York, Upstate New York, the Souther Tier and Vermont,” Relford said. “Now, especially with the birth of our first grandchild, it’s time to head back home to Kansas City to enjoy some long overdue family time and start our next chapter. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to lead this office and for the partnership I experienced here in Albany.”