It’s a real life version of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, though in this case it’s more like Mr. Smith & Wesson. While gun owners will have their share of Second Amendment champions in the next session of Congress, one freshman lawmaker will hopefully be able to provide the type of expertise on the issue rarely heard in the House of Representatives.
Georgia gun store owner Andrew Clyde is heading to Capitol Hill after winning the state’s 9th Congressional District, which was previously held by Republican Doug Collins. Rather than run for re-election, Collins ran for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, coming in third in Tuesday’s jungle primary.
Clyde, on the other hand, won his first congressional campaign by a landslide, picking up 79% of the vote in his race against Democrat Devin Pandy.
Clyde’s campaign touted hallmark Republican positions including protections for gun ownership, opposition to abortion and reducing government spending. He has also called for dismantling the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in favor of a “FairTax” levy targeting consumption only.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Clyde gained political exposure in recent years by pushing Congress to pass legislation limiting the IRS’s powers for civil asset forfeiture after the agency seized nearly $1 million from his gun store.
Clyde credited the experience with inspiring him to run for office, saying in a debate last month that it “showed me there’s a very thin line between we the people running our government and our government running us.”
Clyde grew a small firearms business he launched in his Athens garage in 1991 into a nationwide company with two locations, following three combat deployments in Iraq and Kuwait.
Clyde’s story with the IRS is the stuff of nightmares. Back in 2013, in the midst of the Obama gun boom brought on by his push for gun control after winning re-election, Clyde suddenly found his business’s bank account had been drained of $950,000.
“I didn’t have any money for payroll,” Clyde said. “I had to go borrow $80,000 in order to make payroll and to pay some of the accounts payable of the stuff that had started to come in.”
Clyde had been accused of “structuring,” or setting up bank deposits to avoid reports to the IRS. He maintains his innocence, saying his liability insurance only covered off-premise losses of up to $10,000, which meant he was making semi-regular trips to his bank to deposit amounts close to the reporting threshold.
“They audited my tax records for four years, and they found absolutely nothing,” Clyde said.
But whether he was innocent or guilty wasn’t part of the discussion in the battle from April to October in 2013; the IRS never brought charges against him even while its agents and United States attorneys refused to return his money.
In those six months, IRS agents and federal attorneys offered Clyde several settlements, using his own money as the lure, as the case went before U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land.
“You can’t penalize me until you convict me criminally. But they didn’t want to convict me criminally – they wanted the money,” Clyde said.
Clyde eventually won a settlement with the IRS, getting about $900,000 dollars back, but only months later. I love the fact that this experience inspired him to run for Congress, and his skepticism about the benevolence of government bureaucracy should serve him and his constituents well in D.C.
While gun control wasn’t a focus in the heavily conservative district, Clyde embraced his support for the Second Amendment; featuring semi-automatic rifles in his campaign signage and logos, holding events at his Clyde Armory gun store and local ranges, and touting his opposition to Joe Biden’s anti-gun agenda. Of course, in an election year that featured record-high gun sales and a pandemic, the fact that Clyde owns a gun store inevitably emerged as a line of attack from opponent Devin Pandy, albeit to little effect.
Pandy slammed Clyde for suing Athens-Clarke officials to keep his business open during the county’s shelter-in-place order in March, drawing parallels between that case and contracts Clyde held with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after he sued the federal agency for asset forfeiture and pushed legislation to reform the practice.
“Andrew Clyde only wants to be involved in government when it impacts his own bottom line,” Pandy said during Monday’s debate.
Ignoring those attacks, Clyde embraced his past battles with the IRS as a pillar of his conservative personality and limited-government political beliefs.
“This experience showed me there’s a very thin line between we the people running our government and our government running us,” Clyde said. “And I believe that we the people need to run our government.”
I hate to break it to Pandy, but most of us don’t want anything to do with government unless it impacts us personally. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s also clearly not the case with Clyde or anyone else who decides to run for office. At that point, even the most narcissistic and self-serving candidate has to connect and resonate with voters in order to win the election… which Clyde did handily.
Clyde will be able to speak from experience on Second Amendment issues in a way that we don’t often hear in congressional debates, and it sounds like he’ll make an excellent addition to the defenders of the right to keep and bear arms currently serving in D.C.