Marty Daniel's donations to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp include $25,000 just before Kemp signed a bill weakening gun laws in the state.
Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the CEO of Daniel Defense, a gun manufacturing company that made the rifle used by the shooter in the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.
Kemp has taken $50,200 from the Georgia-based company's founder and CEO, Marty Daniel, so far in his two bids for governor, in 2018 and 2022, according to campaign finance records accessed by the American Independent Foundation. Half of that, or $25,000, was a single donation to Kemp's Georgians First Leadership Committee, a political action committee he formed immediately after signing a law a year ago that permits some state legislative leaders to receive unlimited campaign donations at any time during an election cycle.
That $25,000 contribution came in on March 17, according to campaign disclosure reports, less than a month before Kemp signed a permitless carry law that allows Georgians to carry firearms without a license or a background check. A poll conducted for the Atlanta Journal Constitution in January by the University of Georgia's School of Public and International Affairs found that permitless carry is widely unpopular in the state, with 70% of registered voters opposed to it and 28% in favor.
Federal Election Commission records show that Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker has taken $5,800 from Daniel for his 2022 bid against incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Neither Kemp's campaign nor Walker's campaign returned a request for comment about whether they'd keep the contribution from Daniel after the mass shooting in Uvalde.
Daniel Defense has made many of the firearms used in mass shootings in the United States in the past few years.
The Uvalde shooter used a Daniel Defense AR-style rifle in the shooting that killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers. Of the 49 firearms owned by the gunman who killed 58 people and wounded more than 700 at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, four were semi-automatic rifles manufactured by Daniel Defense.
The company has come under fire for its marketing tactics, which include using video games such as "Call of Duty" in its advertisements and featuring images of Santa Claus and "Star Wars" characters, leading to accusations that its marketing its weapons to teenagers. Daniel Defense has also used children in its advertising, tweeting on May 16 an image of a child holding an AR-style rifle along with the text "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Now families of the victims of the shooting in Uvalde are mulling whether to file a lawsuit against Daniel Defense, looking into whether the company did in fact market its guns to teenagers. The 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde had legally purchased the semi-automatic rifles he owned.
Kemp, for his part, has praised the company, which offered "thoughts and prayers" to the victims' families after both the Uvalde and the Las Vegas shootings.
In a February appearance on a gun rights podcast called "The Reload," Kemp said:
But look, this is a, this is a great state, besides policy, for the Second Amendment and the firearms industry. We have great economics, economic development projects, manufacturers here in our state. It's a growing industry, but one that's been here for a long time, so we're continuing to promote that to provide good-paying jobs and also good opportunities for a lot of great companies. You know, recently we announced that Remington was coming here, you know, obviously Remington's been broken up, but we've got the brand name coming to LaGrange, Georgia. We've got Taurus here, Glock, obviously Daniel Defense. There's really a lot of great companies.
Support for gun safety laws is skyrocketing after the latest mass shootings. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released on Monday found that 59% of American adults think controlling gun violence is more important that protecting gun rights, while 35% say the latter is more important.
It's unclear how Kemp's support for loosening gun laws rather than tightening them or his ties to companies like Daniel Defense will impact his reelection chances.
He will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in November in a race the nonpartisan handicapping outlet Inside Elections rates "Tilt Republican."
Inside Elections rates Herschel Walker's contest with Warnock a toss-up.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.