The Big Idea is a series that asks top lawmakers and figures to discuss their moonshot — what’s the one proposal, if politics and polls and even price tag were not an issue, they’d implement to change the country for the better?
Clyde's real-world experience has convinced him federal government regulations have gone way too far by infringing on the Second Amendment. The Navy combat veteran now wants to lead the charge in Congress on restoring gun rights and rolling back century-old laws that tax firearms.
"I'm very passionate about the Second Amendment, not just defending it, but restoring it because we've lost a lot of ground," Clyde told Fox News.
While House Democrats on Thursday passed an expansion of gun background check provisions, Clyde takes the opposite approach. He campaigned in 2020 on the "complete elimination" of the background checks established by the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and wants to start a "conversation" in Congress on revising the system with a greater onus on the government to prove a person is legally prohibited from having a gun -- and not the other way around.
"I really think the Brady background check system is looking at it backwards," Clyde told Fox News. "We need to be looking at it from the point of the Second Amendment is an inalienable right."
The freshman member is kicking off his gun-rights crusade by introducing legislation to speed up the background check waiting period from three business days to three calendar days.
In the longterm, Clyde is working on a landmark proposal to eliminate all taxes on guns and ammunition arguing that the Second Amendment is a constitutional right, much like voting rights, which cannot be limited by cost restrictions.
"If you can tax a constitutional right, then it is truly not a constitutional right," Clyde said.
Clyde wants to repeal the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act's 11% excise tax on guns and ammunition and the 1934 National Firearms Act's $200 tax. He also thinks sales tax and any state and local taxes on firearms are illegal.
He intends to draft tax repeal legislation now and build support for it among his colleagues so if Republicans retake the House in 2022 his big idea can become closer to reality.
"We're going to do our work this term so that next term when Nancy Pelosi isn't speaker anymore, that we'll be able to introduce those bills and have significant success in passing them," Clyde said.
Clyde further explained his Big Idea on eliminating Second Amendment taxes and restrictions in an interview with Fox News, which has been edited below for clarity and brevity.
Fox News: You campaigned on eliminating all taxes on firearm sales. Walk me through why you think that's necessary and what taxes would be targeted?
Rep. Andrew Clyde: The second amendment is a constitutional right. And if you can tax a constitutional right, then it is truly not a constitutional right. Constitutional rights are inalienable. And they are recognized by government. They are not awarded or given by government. The government is there to protect them.
And so if you can tax a constitutional right even to the point of one penny, then you have the ability to make that tax anything. If you can tax it for just a little bit, you can tax it for a lot. And you can make the taxes so high that parts of the citizenry can't afford it. So how is that a constitutional right if you can't afford it? Then it becomes a right that only those who are wealthy can afford. And that's not a right at all.
Think about voting -- if you had to pay a tax to vote. In this country, there were some states long ago that were that way. And the Supreme Court declared that unconstitutional. ... Well, you can't tax the Second Amendment either. In 2008, the (Supreme Court's) Heller decision declared the Second Amendment an individual, constitutional right. You can't tax that.
Since the Revenue Act of 1918, we have been taxing the Second Amendment to the tune of about 10%. In 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act changed that to 11% for rifles and ammunition, and it left it at 10% for handguns. So, for over 100 years now we have been taxing the Second Amendment and that's wrong. And definitely since 2008 -- since it's been declared an individual constitutional right -- it's wrong. I think it's very important that we start there and we eliminate that [tax burden] as a huge step to restoring our Second Amendment rights.
Fox News: Do you think state and local taxes on guns violate the Second Amendment too?
Clyde: I think it applies to all taxes. If you can tax it to any level, then it is not a constitutional right. So I think it applies to sales tax. I think it applies to any sort of excise tax. I certainly believe that applies to [local taxes]. I think the city of Seattle has a $25 tax on the transfer of every firearm. And I think it applies to ammunition as well because that's an integral part of a firearm. Without ammunition, a firearm is nothing but, you know, a short club.
Fox News: Do you believe that there would be more gun ownership in the United States if these taxes were eliminated?
Clyde: Yes, I think there would be more gun ownership in the United States, and there would be more ownership by those people who are in lower incomes. And I think that it discriminates heavily against people of lower incomes.
Fox News: You campaigned on eliminating the Brady background check system on gun purchases. What's your concern with the system and how would you like to get rid of that?
Clyde: When the pandemic started, it became very evident to me that the Brady background check severely restricted the Second Amendment. Initially, the Brady background check is supposed to have what's called a three-day safety valve. It's described in the law as three business days in which the state is open.
The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is supposed to be instantaneous to check your background. And it's really not. And the federal government has, according to the Brady bill has three business days in order to respond to the request of a federal firearms licensee who asks for a background check.
When the pandemic hit and the state governments shut down or part of the state government shut down, then the FBI through NICS came back and said because the state is shut down that the three business day clock hadn't started. And so it was delayed indefinitely. We had weeks and weeks and sometimes months where there was no response from NICS. People that wanted to buy a firearm who didn't already have a carry permit and are subject to a background check at the time of purchase -- they were simply delayed. Their Second Amendment was denied to them, potentially indefinitely.
Background checks are only good for 30 days. So if the government doesn't get back to you until 32 days, well then the background check is null and void. Now you got to do another background check, and if the government doesn't get back to you for 35 days, well that second background check doesn't work. Now you have to do a third background check and the cycle just continues indefinitely. That person is denied their rights.
I really think the Brady background check system is looking at it backwards. We need to be looking at it from the point of the Second Amendment is an inalienable right. So, how do we preserve that right in a background check system? The onus needs to be on the government to prove that you don't have that right anymore, not on you to prove that you do have it.
Fox News: If you could eliminate the Brady background check, how would you replace it?
Clyde: I think that needs to be a discussion. People, when they come to Congress, some folks think they have all the answers. I'm not one of those people. So I think there needs to be a discussion among many folks as to what that really looks like. But I think the discussion needs to be centered around preserving the Second Amendment first. People are assumed to have their Second Amendment, and only if they have done something to not have their Second Amendment should we then prohibit those people from exercising that right.
There's a number of provisions in federal law where if you violate them, then you lose your Second Amendment constitutional right. Violent felons should not have firearms. I completely agree with that. But the Brady background check system is very flawed and many people who have no criminal background whatsoever are denied that right. Then they have to go back and petition the government to overturn that denial. I've seen that happen numerous times as a federal firearms licensee. That's just wrong. We're here to preserve people's rights, not deny them.
Fox News: You oppose the House Democrats’ latest gun legislation that passed Thursday. The bills expand federal gun background checks on all firearms sales and extend the background check review period from three days to a minimum of 10 business days. Advocates say the bills are common-sense reforms to improve safety. Why do you see this differently?
Clyde: I don't think denying someone their Second Amendment rights increases public safety. I think denying Second Amendment rights does exactly the opposite. It makes things more dangerous. First off, criminals don't get their guns through normal federal firearms licensees. They get their guns on the black market. They get their guns through theft. They get their guns at the scene of a crime sometimes. They just don't go to a federal firearms licensee and buy their guns. They might do it through straw purchases -- that's illegal.
Criminals don't obey the law. That's why they're called criminals. So additional laws on law-abiding citizens are not going to affect a criminal's access to a gun. And that's why this is smoke and mirrors from the Democrats. It's smoke and mirrors to make sure that law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights are further delayed.