OPINION: A pro-gun congressman, gun store owner, and federal weapon supplier all in one

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., speaks during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (Jason Andrew/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Combined ShapeCaption
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., speaks during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (Jason Andrew/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

When Andrew Clyde ran for his 9th District seat in Congress in 2020, he won fans and critics alike with his campaign yards signs, which featured his name alongside an image of an AR-15 rifle.

Now a year and a half into his first term in office, Clyde has become polarizing at the national level, but remains popular in his pro-gun conservative district, where he won his primary last month with 76% of the vote.

He is one of the loudest voices in Congress against any new gun restrictions, including proposals that have followed the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers.

But Clyde is no ordinary policymaker. Along with his seat in Congress, he has maintained his role as the owner of Clyde Armory, a business that not only includes two Georgia gun stores, but also a sprawling government contracting business that sells weapons and ammunition to the federal government and state governments across the country.

Why do we care about any of this?

Because Clyde’s role in the gun debate should be processed by voters as both a congressional representative who argues against new gun restrictions and someone who personally profits off of the success of the industry.

The congressman’s dual roles were on display last week during a House committee hearing that featured Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary. In videotaped testimony, the 11-year-old described smearing herself with the blood of her dead classmate to convince the shooter that she, too, had been killed.

When the time came for Clyde to question other witnesses, he made the case that AR-15-style rifles like the one used by the shooter in Uvalde, made by Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense, are not to blame for mass shootings in America.

“Have mass shootings or school shootings been carried out with other weapons other than AR-15′s?” Clyde asked a different witness. Yes, she said.

As Clyde spoke, the Facebook page for Clyde Armory prominently featured an ad for a gun from Daniel Defense.

When Clyde questioned the Buffalo police chief about the weapons police used to take down a shooter with an AR-15 there, Clyde noted that the handguns police had were more than enough to get the job done.

“It’s all about shot placement, isn’t it?” the congressman asked.

Clyde’s office did not respond to requests for details of his day-to-day role with Clyde Armory, nor which steps he’s taking to ensure he avoids conflicts between his role representing 9th District voters and his job running Clyde Armory as it supplies arms and ammunition to states and the federal government.

In its 2022 filings with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, Clyde Armory lists Rep. Clyde as both CEO and CFO.

And Clyde’s most recent personal financial disclosure report with the U.S. House Clerk’s office shows that the business, which he began as a hobby in 1991, is thriving. He lists the value of his share of Clyde Armory as between $5 million and $25 million.

Before he was elected, public records showed Clyde Armory had received at least $3.7 million in federal contracts since 2010.

Since he became a member of Congress, documents show the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior continued to purchase weapons from Clyde Armory, with the latest transaction in May of 2022. Sales to the agencies included shotguns, handguns, rifles, pistols, miscellaneous weapons, and accessories.

At the state level, Clyde Armory has lucrative contracts selling semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and accessories to several states through 2024.

I reached out to a Washington lawyer with extensive experience in House ethics rules to find out about any federal laws that would prevent Clyde from serving in Congress while also running a federally regulated business that sells weapons to agencies he oversees.

The attorney said that although federal law prevents members of Congress from contracting directly with the government, a carveout typically exists for contacts with companies themselves, especially if the member began the company before being elected.

But he also asked not to be named as a source because he feared death threats against him based on previous experiences.

It’s no surprise that Clyde, once in Congress, has been a staunch opponent of new gun controls. But as voters watch him navigate the debate about guns, citizens’ safety, and the government’s proper role in both, they should ask themselves if Clyde is speaking for his constituents, his business, or his vendors, like Daniel Defense.

It’s possible he’s speaking for all three at once.