Brady PAC Executive Director Brian Lemek joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss what a Biden administration means for the gun industry.
KRISTIN MYERS: I want to chat now about the gun industry and what gun reform is going to look like under a Biden presidency. We’re joined now by Brian Lemek. He’s the executive director of Brady PAC, which is, of course lobbying for gun reform.
Brian, good of you to join us today. I want to, I guess, just start off with that question. We have a President-elect, Joe Biden. What are you expecting? What are you hoping for going forward, at least when it pertains to gun reform?
BRIAN LEMEK: Thank you, Kristin. It’s great to be here with you. My favorite question, because we actually have a Biden presidency. We believe that the thumb of the NRA has been lifted, already a weak organization.
And I think we can agree, not just because of the misappropriation of donor funding or the multiple lawsuits and allegations against them, but really, their own donor support is working against them now. They’ve seen what they are. They are the mouthpiece for the gun industry, for gun manufacturers, and they don’t have America’s best interests in mind.
Now, with a Biden presidency, not beholden to the NRA as we saw with Trump, we see a real opportunity here for meaningful common-sense solutions to this very complex problem we have here in the United States.
KRISTIN MYERS: So as you mentioned, the NRA, a weakened organization– I’ve written about this, the NRA looking like it might be facing bankruptcy. I know that Brady PAC is not currently having those same money or financial issues.
So then, as you’re looking at the political landscape, and you’re looking that your opponent, for lack of a better term, is weak, financially weak, are you saying to yourselves, OK, you know what, this is the time, this is the year or the next four years, that we are finally going to be getting all of those things that we have been lobbying for?
BRIAN LEMEK: Yeah, we see with a Biden presidency a real opportunity here because, Joe Biden’s been on our side of the issue since he’s been in Congress. He was working on gun violence prevention in the ’90s, when it was one of the least popular issue out there. It was the third rail for Democrats. Nobody was talking about guns, and Joe Biden was.
If we look at the Brady Bill, Joe Biden was one of the major legislators behind the Brady Bill. If we look at the assault weapon ban, Joe Biden was there in the mid-’90s working on that. So we know that there’s a real opportunity here with an experienced lawmaker, someone that has a lot of experience reaching across the aisle to pass meaningful legislation. We could not be more happy for a Biden presidency to move our issue, but really, most importantly, start saving American lives from gun violence.
KRISTIN MYERS: I want to ask you now about coronavirus and how you see that impacting your lobbying and your work going forward, especially as it seems, throughout this pandemic, gun sales have actually been on the rise. And the more afraid people have gotten, the more that they have gone out to purchase guns. As we’re seeing there, gun stocks taking a hit today. But I’m wondering how do you see the pandemic playing into this.
BRIAN LEMEK: Kristin, it was so bizarre. Early on, we looked in, and just as an individual runs an organization, we have to be fiscally responsible. We have to steward our donors’ contributions as best we can.
So when we see the pandemic coming upon us, and it’s mid-March, we’re saying, OK, what the hell is this going to look like in April? We decided to give the organization, just across the top, a haircut. We said, 20% off, we’re going to reduce our activities. We’re going to reduce our investment in certain states, and we’re going to wait this thing out,
What we never expected was that COVID and guns would be so tied together, so linked. So what we saw was– you mentioned it, Kristin, these panic purchases, really, these first-time gun owners going out there and saying, I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen, this civil unrest. I’m going to purchase a gun.
Now, there’s a lot of concerns with that, the first being, guns are exceptionally dangerous. They are also a perishable skill. Officers, military, everyone that owns a gun should be training constantly with this thing, because, again, perishable skill. So we have these first-time gun owners getting these weapons, and that is frightening.
Second, they were deemed essential businesses. So where it’s difficult to get some of the necessities, you can go out there and buy a gun. That was a major concern of ours.
And then third, and probably the most important, Americans were introduced to guns and gun violence prevention, but really gun laws and the lacks and the loopholes and gun laws, when they turned on the news and saw the Michigan State capital overrun by militias. And they asked the question, how does that happen? How is it even possible? How can you have a gun open carry, number one, but number two, how do you carry it to a state house?
So for us, our issue is kind of projected with COVID. And we saw a lot of people hearing about guns in a way they never had before. They heard about guns and shootings. They hear about the devastation that’s happening in particular communities, Black and brown communities especially, [INAUDIBLE]. And this, for the first time, is really like, oh, shit. This could actually happen to us. And they’re looking at the state Capitol and wondering, how is this possible?