Does the Jan. 6th “Tourists” Congressman Supply Guns to Criminals?

By Paul Thomas Zenki

Rep. Clyde’s IRS dust-up raises questions …

During a May 12th, 2021, US Congressional hearing, an obscure Georgia representative leapt to international infamy with a lie so colossal it made headlines around the world, even in this jaded post-Trump era.

Speaking of the January 6th riot at the US Capitol, Andrew Clyde of Athens, GA, denied there’d been any attempted insurrection at all. Rather, some of those who entered the Capitol had merely been “unruly” and indulged in a little “vandalism”. Then he let loose this whopper:

“If you didn’t know the TV footage was from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Now I don’t know where Mr. Clyde takes his vacations, but if this is his idea of a “normal tourist visit”, forgive me for not wanting to tag along …

Truth is, no one in their right mind would think any such thing about footage of the Capitol attack. We’ve all seen it. And according to law enforcement on the ground, the reality was even worse than the videos.

In fact, Clyde himself was photographed helping to barricade the House Floor during the riot, and later standing against a wall with a look of terror on his face behind an armed man drawing a bead on the doorway. And apparently he feels so unsafe in the wake of the event that he wants to be armed at work, and is willing to defy House rules to that end.

But if you’re surprised by a US Congressman turning a blind eye to violent crime, it may help to know a little something about Mr. Clyde’s background. First, he sells guns. Lots of guns. So many guns, in fact, that the regular cash deposits alone from his fortress-themed “armories” have often exceeded $10,000.

Building in the style of a fortress with a military tank parked out front and a sign by the road reading "Clyde Amory - Guns - Buy, Sell, Trade"
The Clyde Armory gun shop in Athens, GA, featuring decorative tank (photo by author)

How do we know this? Well, it’s because in 2013 the IRS seized nearly a million dollars from Clyde for “structuring” his regular deposits to keep the cash under $10,000 a pop, which was a violation of federal law. Two years later, Clyde settled the matter with a $50,000 forfeiture to the IRS.

The law which Clyde ran afoul of was intended to raise red flags for illegal activity such as drug running, but Clyde was never accused of any such underlying crime, only of attempting to jimmy his cash deposits so as to keep them below the trigger point for federal scrutiny. Clyde has stated that his actions had nothing to do with avoiding the eye of law enforcement, but were needed so that the cash in his deposit bags stayed below his insurance policy’s limits for off-premises losses, which also happened to be $10,000.

Be that as it may, we’re faced with the fact that a guy running gun shops in a couple of midsize towns in Georgia  — Athens, metro population 210,000, and Warner Robins, metro population 180,000 —  is handling enough cash sales that his regular bank-drops are topping ten grand. That’s a helluva lot of cash money for guns, especially for stores that aren’t even in Metro Atlanta.

We’re also faced with the fact that Georgia is “the biggest exporter of crime guns in the U.S.” More guns used in crimes outside their state of sale come from Georgia than any place else in the nation.

In part, that’s because Georgia is well situated for distribution. In the heart of Atlanta (about an hour west of Athens and an hour and a half north of Warner Robins) three major interstate highways intersect: I-75 running from Miami to Michigan’s border with Canada at the Great Lakes; I-85 stretching from Montgomery, AL, to Virginia where it T-bones into I-95, which spans the entire eastern seaboard of the US; and I-20 which merges with I-10 just east of the Mexican border at El Paso, TX, and empties into I-95 in South Carolina.

But it’s also because Georgia is none too strict with its guns. The Giffords Law Center ranks Georgia 32nd in the strength of its firearms regulation (earning the state an F rating in combination with its gun death rate). And as a congressman with an A rating from both the NRA and GOA, Andrew Clyde stands staunchly on the side of keeping the gun supply flowing as freely, and free from government scrutiny, as possible.

At this point I should probably mention I’m a gun owner and everyone in my family owns guns, including my mother who’s in her eighties. Some hunt, some sport shoot, some use them for personal protection. So if you’re expecting an anti-gun article, you’re going to be disappointed.

That said, I’m no fan of the 2nd Amendment mythology claiming that the Constitution actually sanctions armed revolt , which has helped spawn the aggressively ignorant right-wing “patriot militia” movement, continues to block any practical solutions to America’s gun violence problem, and had a hand in ginning up the January 6th Capitol attack, the goal of which was to assist Trump in returning to power and jailing or executing his political enemies. Fortunately for us, the ragtag mob had no military support and Trump himself had no intention of joining them as promised and boldly taking control of the government as his deluded followers imagined he would.

But they still managed to do significant harm, not only to persons and property but also to the prospect of continued democracy in America. And Andrew Clyde’s willingness to back up the Big Lie of the “stolen” election with a second-string lie that no insurrection was attempted, that it was just an overly excited crowd of visitors who got a little out of hand, makes him a traitor in my book. Because make no mistake, Trump wanted a coup. And as bumbling and inept as the attempt was, it was nevertheless an attack on America. By excusing it, dissembling for it, and trying to rewrite its history, Clyde places himself among the ranks of those preparing the way for future assaults.

Which is why Clyde’s background matters. Here’s a man doing his darnedest to keep gun laws lax while operating a business that racks up eye-popping amounts of cash transactions in firearms on the regular, in the country’s biggest supplier-state of weapons to criminals, and who didn’t mind rigging his transactions in violation of federal law to keep his cash deposits under the radar, regardless of his stated motives for doing so. A man who barricaded himself against a violent mob and subsequently denied that the mob was violent, despite also insisting on evading Capitol metal detectors so he could arm himself against perceived threats.

It’s said that whenever a headline asks a question, the answer is no. But in this case, when we ask whether Clyde is helping to supply some of those Georgia weapons to criminals through straw buyers, the answer is “nobody knows, but it’d be kind of surprising if he wasn’t.” He certainly behaves like a man who doesn’t particularly care to know himself where the guns he sells end up, and who surely doesn’t want law enforcement to be able to track them. Nor does he have any great respect for the rule of law when it becomes inconvenient for him. And he has proven himself willing to lie in defense of crime and violence if he sees personal benefit in so doing.

You can’t trust a man like that. And you can’t believe his claims of loyalty to anyone but himself.

At the end of the day, while we can’t know what happens to all the weapons Mr. Clyde sells for cash out of his “armories,” we do know he is responsible for blatantly false statements entering the Congressional record, which attempt to obfuscate a violent attack upon the US under the pretext that it never occurred. And that makes Andrew Clyde a willing conduit of the rot which has taken hold of the Republican Party and now threatens to end Constitutional democracy in America.

Header image: US Representative Andrew Clyde (US House of Representatives, public domain)

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Paul Thomas Zenki is an essayist, ghostwriter, copywriter, marketer, songwriter, and consultant living in Athens, GA.