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Don Lemon Tonight

Vote To Advance Sweeping Voting Rights Bill Fails To Overcome GOP Filibuster; Andrew Yang Concedes New York City Mayoral Primary Race; Interview With Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); The Truth About Critical Race Theory; Interview With Justin Wolfers About Post- Pandemic U.S. Economy; Black Americans And Women Fueling The Spike In Gun Sales During The Pandemic; Nassib Has Top-Selling NFL Jersey After Coming Out As Gay. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Republicans blocking Democrats sweeping voting rights bill tonight, not one GOP Senator would even allow debate on this crucial issue. Plus, sources tell CNN, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will appoint a select committee to investigate the Capitol insurrection. It's on f the few options left after Republicans block a bipartisan commission to get answers on January 6th.

And President Joe Biden, tweeting his support for Carl Nassib, the NFL's first active player to announce that he is gay, and Kumi Yokomaya -- excuse me, Yokoyama, excuse me, a Washington spirit soccer player who came out as transgender man this week. The president saying that these athletes are helping countless kids see themselves in a new light today.

And we are following the early results coming in from New York City's mayoral primary as Andrew Yang is conceding tonight, telling supporters, I'm not going to be the mayor of New York City based on the numbers coming in tonight.

So let's get right into our political commentator, Charlie Dent a former Republican congressman and senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Good evening gentlemen, we have a lot to talk about. So, we're hearing, Ron, that the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi is going to appoint the select committee to investigate January 6th.

This news coming just moments after Republican block that sweeping voting rights bill. So on so many levels we are witnessing a struggle for truth and democracy in this country, how do you think this is going to play out?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AND SENIOR EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC (on camera): Yeah, look, I mean you're right this is all part of the same struggle and it is certainly the greatest struggle over the fundamental tenets of American democracies since at least the Jim Crow era, and possibly, since the civil war. You see that the vast majority of the Republican Party both in the

states and in Washington, are operationalizing Trump's, you know, discredited claims of fraud in 2020, and moving forward with an incredibly aggressive voter suppression agenda that they are passing Don, importantly on a Party line basis in state after, state.

And in Washington, they are locking arms both to defend that and to block any further investigation, into what happened on January 6th. In this world, the one lever the Democrats have to fight back is there unified control of Congress and the White House. And the critical question on all these funds is, are Democrats going to use that power, or are they going to be paralyzed by this argument that they have to give a veto to the Republicans in the Senate, who are in effect defending what's already happening and to rollback democracy in the states.

LEMON: Charlie, Republicans had used the filibuster to kill the bipartisan commission to look at the Capitol insurrection, to stop even taking up debate on voting rights bills. How can the GOP even say that they are standing up for democracy, at this point?

FMR. REP. CHARLIE DENT (R-PA), CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (on camera): Well, let me first address the filibuster Don, I wish you could even in the House Republican conference after the Tea Party victory when I use a listen, routinely to House Republicans talk about eliminating the filibuster. And they want to do that because they want to do jam and roll the other side, I objected to it then, I object to it now.


Yes, this filibuster has been abused and misused on issues like the commission. And they should've allowed the vote to proceed tonight, but that's not to say that because that we should reform the filibuster. And I have to say Don, on the voting rights legislation there are some flaws with this For The People Act.

I mean, should the federal government the mandating same day registration, I think that's an overreach. Independent commissions, I think are valid, but that's a prerogative of the state government. Should there be federally financed Congressional campaigns, these are serious policy questions. I can understand why a lot of people might object to those.

LEMON: Charlie, let me ask you then, because I think it's interesting and it's good that you say reform the filibuster. I think many people would say, OK, fine. Let's take a look at that. And also, if you think that there needs to be -- if the bills are not perfect and whatever -- and some things need to be added or some things needs to be taken out or subtracted. Why not bring it to the floor and debate it and let the American people hear it.

DENT: Well, I would agree, and by the way, one other thing about the For The People Act, that bill was written long before these changes were being made at the state legislative level. I always thought it was a messaging bill. I know there are plenty of Democrats who have reservations about it, but they are happy to hide behind Joe Manchin on this one. I still think they should pivot to the John Lewis voting rights act. I think that is a more substantial bill, and addresses the Supreme Court decision a few years ago in Shelby. That's what I would do.

LEMON: Would it address what's happening around the country with these restrictive bills, no?

BROWNSTEIN: No, it's not retroactive. Right? I mean, so the only way they can -- the only lever they have to address what's happening in the states is to set a nationwide floor voting rights. And I think, you know, to -- I was not against argument that the S.1 and H.R.1 was to sweeping. I think we are going to get a test of that. Senator Merkley, who I think is going to be on later, told me today that the Democratic response to this is going to be to negotiate a slim down bill based on the compromised that Manchin offered a few days ago.

And basically all Democrats will unify behind something like that, and then ask Manchin and Sinema and others who claimed that this can be done, that whether they can find 10 Republicans.

And if they can't, it becomes another proof point in what is really this process, Don, it's going to go all the way up on for quite a while of trying to move Manchin, Sinema, and maybe others off of their resistance of Cheney by the filibuster by demonstrating to them time after time that they are not 10 Republicans willing to come to the table, that rather than promoting compromise and negotiation, the filibuster actually makes it easier for Republicans to simply stonewall, because now --

LEMON: Got it.

BROWNSTEIN: -- they know they can block completely with Democrats want to do. If they knew this is going to be passed --

LEMON: I got --

BROWNSTEIN: -- then they might feel more pressure to actually negotiate.

LEMON: I got to let Charlie jump in. Charlie, quickly jump in because I know you want to say something.

DENT: Just on the filibuster, look at my experience was that filibuster really facilitated compromise during my time. I would see the House Republicans at times with past bills that had no chance of becoming law, and the only way we can make these bills reasonable would be for adults in the Senate in a bipartisan way, to come to a consensus and that's how we would make law. That filibuster help us reach compromise. I realized it's abused.

But at the same time, I'll tell you what, the Senate will look a lot like the House and we are having a (inaudible) rule. We will have new laws, they will not be durable or sustainable, and that's a shame. You need a bipartisan basis, bipartisan law in order to make sure these laws are sustainable. I worry about this going forward.

LEMON: Yeah. That's got to be the last word. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

DENT: Thank you.

LEMON: Joining me now Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He's one of the chief authors of the For The People Act. Senator, good to see you. Thanks for joining.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Very good to be with you, Don.

LEMON: So you have said, if Democrats can't protect voting rights it will be and I quote here, political Armageddon. Republicans block three bills tonight. So, is that where we are?

MERKLEY: No, not yet. This was just the round one battle. There is going to be a round two, round three, round four, round five until we get this done because just fundamental constitutional values at stake here, the rights of every American to cast a ballot and help determine the future of our country.

LEMON: Senator Manchin proposed the compromise that includes many parts of the For The People Act but requires some form of identification to vote and check out this new Mammoth poll. 80 percent of all Americans in favor of this requirement. Are you going to support it?

MERKLEY: The way that I've viewed his approach is to say how does this serve the fundamental premises of which they are formed? Does this stop billionaires from buying elections by getting rid of dark money? The answer is yes.

The second of all, does it provide early voting opportunity and absentee voting opportunity so it stays and just can't play shenanigans on Election Day to prevent people from voting? The answer is yes. Does it provide commissions to be able to stop gerrymandering? The answer is yes. And does it dress conflicts of interest that create a lot of corruption so that we can have public servants actually serving the public? And the answer again is yes.


So we have a lot to work with here in the Manchin proposal. I'm sure there is points that people will bring expertise to bear and say hey, do you realize how this would work in my state or another state but we've got a very fundamental proposal. We work in communication with his team throughout the weekend and I think there is still some conversation to occur but I think we've really made big strides.

LEMON: So not fully on board yet but working it out? The question was are you going to support it?

MERKLEY: Yes. Well, I think Manchin is open to some adjustments as we take information back. We actually haven't seen texts yet. He may have released it tonight. He said, he might be able to release it tonight. And so we'll go through that version and I'm sure there will be some suggestions but the vision of working together to produce this bill that he supports, that he has been laid the foundation for I think is very much on track.


MERKLEY: The next step will be reaching out to the Republican caucus. And if that fails, and there is only 50 of us in the Senate who will defend the constitution, then those 50 of us have to feel, figure out how to get past the McConnell veto because we have that responsibility of the oath we took.

LEMON: Well, that's a filibuster. Listen, if Manchin perhaps, if he had been on with you know, changing or carving out or making some sort of changes to the filibuster, perhaps he wouldn't be in this position and speaking of Senator Kyrsten Sinema is out with a new op-ed explaining why is against getting rid of filibuster to past voting rights. And here's what she writes in part.

She says, to those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For The People Act, I would ask would it be good for our country if we did only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter I.D. law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections over the objections of the minority?

So, we've heard that argument but does it stand up in the moment that we're in right now? I've been saying this is a break the glass moment. What do you think?

MERKLEY: Well, so the argument does stand up in this sense that in that article, Sinema said we need a vote on process and we need to listen to each other's concerns and considerations and when people come together to listen to each other and say what are the pros and cons, then we have a possibility to move forward. We don't have to eliminate the filibuster. At the heart of it was the courtesy of making sure the majority doesn't over run the minority and that courtesy is existing from the beginning.

Then that courtesy was abused for 80 years to stop civil rights legislation, so it had a very dark Jim Crow connection. And then it was kind of used by every -- on everything by Mitch McConnell to paralyze the Senate. The other half of the majority listening to the minority was that ultimately, the minority could not paralyze the Senate.

Robert Berg (ph) made many changes to keep the minority from paralyzing the Senate. Our founders said don't allow super majority to paralyze the Senate because they were under a super majority when they wrote the constitution. So when we get-togethers and share our concerns, I think we can have the ability to restore and reinvigorate, improve kind of the best concept of the filibuster whether then the worst.

LEMON: Senator Merkley, thank you, sir.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Now I want to turn to Adam Jentleson, he is the former Deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid and the author of the book Kill switch, the rise of the modern Senate. Perfect person to have to talk about these issues. Thank you Adam, good to see you again.


LEMON: Now that Republicans have blocked this voting rights bill, all eyes again are on the filibuster and you say the question to reform the filibuster boils down to, do we want a functional or dysfunctional government? Tell us why, Adam?

JENTLESON: That's right. Well, you know, the question we're facing right now is something that the framers actually predicted when they created the Senate. And, you know, one of the big myths about the filibuster is that it's this foundational feature of the Senate. And that's just simply not true. The framers created a Senate that was majority rule body. This myth that there will be wild swings back and forth is not something that they were afraid of.

And they specifically explained in the federalist papers and in their personal correspondents in the notes of the constitutional convention, the framers specifically explained that if you impose a super majority threshold and require bills to get more than the majority to pass the Senate that the result would be gridlock.

And so the 60 vote threshold that we have in the Senate today is something that is only evolved in the past few decades and the result is exactly what the framers predicted, gridlock. So, if you want to reform the filibuster, what we are really talking about is, do you want a government that is capable of functioning at a very basic level.


LEMON: And listen, Charlie Dent, I think, Charlie spoke very reasonably. He said that he believes the filibuster should be reformed. Doesn't think it necessarily should be gotten rid of. But I think it's time to look at the filibuster and see if there is some room for reformation or for revising it.

There seems to be this misconception, Adam, that the filibuster was something established by the founding fathers. You just said, or at least something that they supported when in fact they warned against this sort of thing as you said. So your point, of your various examples, in the Federalist papers, OK. Let me read some of it and I'll let you talk about it.

There it is right there. James Madison, number 10 and 58, Alexander Hamilton number 22. Explain why they were so against it. Is it because the gridlock pointed is a go beyond that as you said. The gridlock point as you said or does it go beyond that?

JENTLESON: Yeah, I mean, the reason is that they had just had personal firsthand experience with what a Congress looks like when you put a super majority threshold in place. The articles of confederation, which were, you know, the first draft of American government that was in place during the revolutionary war had a super majority threshold in its version of Congress for most major legislation.

And they put it there for the same reasons that the defenders of the filibuster defended today. They thought that including and requiring a super majority threshold would create compromise and consensus. Instead, what they saw firsthand in the 1780s was that gridlock was the result.

And so when they went to write the constitution, they were coming directly off the firsthand experience with a gridlock legislature that was gridlocked because of a super majority threshold because of what the filibuster is today and so that is why they were so focused on this point and were very clear that we should not have a super majority requirement in our legislature.

LEMON: Kyrsten Sinema, the Senator is defending the filibuster. She believes that the 60 vote's threshold forces compromise and you're saying the framers didn't necessarily say that and that she had an op- ed today. She wrote an op-ed that was published today. How is she wrong?

JENTLESON: That's right. Well, you know, this is one of the flaws that the framers pointed out. In federalist 22, Alexander Hamilton takes on this argument, the same argument that Senator Sinema is making in her op-ed. And Hamilton wrote that what a first sight might seem a remedy is in fact a poison. Hamilton and the other framers were very aware that you might intuitively think that a super majority would promote compromise.

Just as Sinema saying it does. But they explained that's not what happens if you give the minority the ability to wheel the veto over the majority, what is going to happen is that the minority is going to be -- have it -- find it impossible to resist the temptation to use that veto. And they're going to use it to make the majority look bad, to gridlock everything that happens in Washington.

You know, they predicted this. Senator Sinema seems content to ignore that wisdom and continue to engage in this myth that has been debunked by the framers in 1789 and is debunked by our real life experience at the Senate today were the gridlock that results is exactly what the framers predicted would happen if you impose (inaudible).

LEMON: Adam, we learn so much when you're on. Can we get his book back up if we can, please? Jenny, if you can do that. Because I want to make sure -- OK.

Adam, I learn so much when you come on. I appreciate it. The book is called Kill switch. There it is, right there. By Adam Jentleson. If you want to learn more about what's happening in the Senate, about the filibuster, no one better than my estimation in Adam. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

JENTLESON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. It is the latest boogieman from the Republican outrage machine, but a founding theorist of critical race theories says, it's not what they're telling you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: They're propagandizing to our children. They are turning our children away from faith and family and our founding principles and ideals.




LEMON: The GOP lashing on to critical race theory as its latest boogieman, using it as a political rallying cry to gin up the base. The Republicans invoking it as a cudgel, don't seem to actually understand what it is about. So it's framework for looking at systemic racism in America's institution. Well, of course, that doesn't stop Senator Josh Hawley from saying things like this. Here it is.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Young children set off to school with eyes full of hope and hearts full of pride in their country only to be taught that white privilege defines the nation. That subjects like mathematics are inherently racist, that the Christian faith is oppressive. They're taught that the nuclear family perpetuates racism.


LEMON: All right. So joining me now is Kimberle Crenshaw. Kimberle Crenshaw is a leading scholar and founding theorist of critical race theory. Kimberly, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

KIMBERLE CRENSHAW, LAW PROFESSOR AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND UCLA (on camera): Oh, it's a pleasure to be here, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: So, let's discuss this. OK. So what Senator Hawley is saying is that -- about critical race theory is that what it is?


CRENSHAW: Well, of course, that's not what it is. You know, at critical race theory is basically an academic discipline that was started by law professors in the '70s and '80s that intended to look at the reasons why there is so much of a gap between promises of American equality, the promises of the 13th and 14th amendment and our ability to realize those promises in real and material ways.

Sometimes we like to talk about it in terms that acknowledge that race itself is a fiction but racism is very real. What role has law played over the course of our history in making race real and in coding racism into our institutions? And that is basically been what we've been doing but look, I think it's important that we not fall into the trap of trying to define what CRT is because that's what they want us to do.


What is important is to focus on what is behind this. What is behind this is not an effort to really think or debate about the history of race and racism. It's not an effort to really think about how it's been embedded in our institutions and how to fix some of its toxicity.

What this is an effort to respond to last year's incredible mobilization around the killing of George Floyd, the fact that there is finally a majority in American society that is willing and wanting to talk about institutionalized forms of racism.

They didn't have a way to respond to that. And so they rooted around to find something and they found critical race theory. So what they're talking about, what this hysteria is about, a, it's not happening, b, it's not what critical race theory is but c, it is a wedge issue that they hope to pound all the way to the polls.

LEMON: Well, OK.


I'm glad you said that especially about not letting other people define because when I talk about teaching the entire history of the country should be taught in schools and people will say, it's critical race theory. I'm not talking about critical race theory. I'm talking about teaching the truth about history. So, and not allowing people to use buzz terms to sort of define the moment.


LEMON: I'm glad you said what you said, because here are some examples of what the right have been saying about critical race theory, listen to this.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Let me tell you right now, critical race theory is bigoted, it is a lie and it is every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Critical race theory teaches children as young as kindergarten to be ashamed of their skin color.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: Unfortunately, critical race theory is a lie. It makes Americans hate each other. It's a tragedy in that way.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's not going to be allowed in Florida classrooms. Spending tax dollars to teach kids that America is a rotten place, is absolutely unacceptable.


LEMON: OK. Klansmen in the white sheet, whatever.

CRENSHAW: Yeah. LEMON: Why have Republicans wrapped critical race theory in to this

buzz word that's being used as a grab bag to attack things that they don't like?

CRENSHAW: Well, Don, it's a very old tale. What is that saying? A new wine and old skins. This is old wine and new skins. This is the old argument that anti-racism, is racism against white people. That racial justice is a zero game and it's an old strategy of creating hysteria, particularly around children.

And we have to remember that Brown versus the board of education, the landmark, civil rights victory didn't really go into effect for a decade. Why? Because the south united in denouncing it as subversive. They united in saying that this is a threat to our children, a threat to our nation.

Remember, Martin Luther King was called the most dangerous man in America. So the idea that racial progress is in fact an assault against white people, against their heritage, against the very core of American democracy is not a new idea. They've just rehashed it in this moment because it serves to help deflect what the truth is.

This is the party that brought you January 6th. It is the party that brought you every effort to cover up January 6th. It has put democracy on life support and now they're pointing a finger at critical race theory so people don't really look at the bankruptcy of what they're about.

LEMON: You point out that critical race theory isn't even taught in k through 12 schools. It is a legal theory taught in law schools. Are you worried that even if the GOP is wrong about what it is that they are going to be successful in hijacking the conversation, because again, what they're talking about -- none of what they're saying is true, it's not even taught to school kids? I mean, it makes no sense but, you know, go on. Sorry, Kimberle.

CRENSHAW: Of course I'm worried about it because it is word in the past. I mean, look, the one thing that the Republicans are very, very good at is creating hysteria around things that they have put into the mix and then mobilize millions of people to think that they have to fight like their lives depend on it.

I mean, that's what January 6th was. They created a lie about the election. They ginned people up and they got them to attack the Capitol in defense of democracy, right?


This is a very old tactic. It's tried and true and the real challenge honestly, Don, is that so many people are confused about what this is about.


CRENSHAW: They think that this is really a debate about critical race theory. They don't realize that this is deflection. They don't realize that this is old Willie Horton kind of politics.

And so while the other side is ginned up, our folks are trying to find a book. What is it about? What is going on? Is this really happening in schools?

So what we have to do is focus on the source, consider the source, consider the playbook, consider what is at stake, and consider what we will lose.

Already teachers are losing their jobs for teaching. Teachers are losing their jobs for teaching spoken word poetry. And what is also on the chopping block is a whole range of things. Ethnic studies departments, potentially diversity programs, not only in high schools and in higher education, but also in corporations.

LEMON: Yeah.

CRENSHAW: So they are trying to go for the entire racial justice enterprise.

LEMON: Well, people like you, we'll have you on, and you will keep trying to educate people or I shouldn't say trying, educating people on it. Thank you, Kimberle Crenshaw. We'll see you back here.

CRENSHAW: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.




LEMON: So as the country opens back up, we are returning to a totally different economy. We've got supply chain issues, worker shortages, and the way we all do our jobs has changed now.

I want to talk about our new post-pandemic reality with Justin Wolfers. Justin Wolfers is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. Hi, Justin. Thank you for coming on.


LEMON: Yeah. Listen, the U.S. economy has changed post-pandemic. There are large scale labor shortages in low-paying jobs. In April alone, 3.95 million Americans left the workforce. What's happening? Are these jobs coming back?

WOLFERS: Yeah. I want to be careful about calling it a worker shortage. In fact, I want to urge you not to.


WOLFERS: A different way of looking at the labor market is how many people would be employed right now if we had a pre-pandemic trend. That would be about 10 million people more. Ten million missing jobs is about as bad as the darkest days of the 2008, 2009 recession. So, this is an economy that's still hurting. The real question is how optimistic or pessimistic should we be going forward?

LEMON: OK. So you said not a worker shortage, right?

WOLFERS: Yeah. So, look, here is one way to think about it. Imagine that the pandemic had caused half of all couples could -- to get divorced. In some sense, that's the employment equivalent of that. And six months later, bunch of couple -- bunch of singles are still looking to find their life partners. I don't think that would surprise you.

Well, the labor market works a bit like that. This is the biggest game of 52 card pickup we've ever played and it's going to take a while for workers and firms to find each other again.

LEMON: OK, got it. There is a lot of talk about unemployment benefits, Justin, being a disincentive for low-wage workers to return to work. Is that really a problem because those extra benefits would amount to about $15 -- $15,000 even if they lasted a year, which they don't?

WOLFERS: So those benefits are really helping. There are millions of people without work and it is helping them put food on the tables for their families. So it is important to remember the upside of them at the same time.

Don, let me broaden the conversation, which is what people are worried about is what economists call labor supply, people willing to work. One of the possibilities is that unemployment insurance affects that. Maybe there is a small effect there. But there are other issues as well like child care.

For instance, in my town of Ann Arbor, the local school district said that they're no longer going to offer afterschool care, which is obviously a tremendous problem for parents. There are people in retail who are still quite afraid to work given the wars over masks and the like.

And the other thing is this is a unique recession. We have never had a recession before where millions of people are out of work, yet they all felt or many of them feel confident that the economy is going to come back.

Normally, when we're in a hole, we're worried it's going to get deeper. And so maybe people are just feeling a little bit confident. And as a result of that, they feel that they can look around a little more to try and find the right job for them in the post-pandemic economy. Look, that's a future of this recovery, not a bug.

LEMON: Let's take a look at this. This is inflation. It is up five percent since May, the largest increase in inflation since 2008, and it's impacting everything from milk to airline tickets, up 7.2 percent for milk, 1.6 percent for alcohol, 3.2 percent for fresh fruits and vegetables. Look, it terrible for consumers, but it is also threatening the recovery, no? Is it?

WOLFERS: One way of thinking about this is the pandemic destroyed both the supply side of the economy and the demand side. No one wanted to work and produce and equally nobody wanted to spend.

And so what we have in this reopening is demand and supply both coming back and what is going to happen through some period of that is that demand will move and head a little faster than supply. That's been happening in the last couple of months and that's why you've seen things like lumber prices rise. But later on, it is possible it will reverse. Maybe supply will come back a little stronger as well.

A lot of what we're seeing with inflation, remember, inflation measures where prices are today compared with a year ago. Well, a year ago, prices were artificially low because we're in the depths of the pandemic. So that's part of it. Part of it is just transitory price adjustments as we try to work all the kink sound of reopening enormous machine we call the U.S. economy.

LEMON: Justin Wolfers, I appreciate that. Thank you.

WOLFERS: Pleasure.

LEMON: Thank you. So, let's talk about gun sales, OK? Listen to this. Gun sales are way up, way up during the coronavirus pandemic.


LEMON: But the group that is buying them the most might just surprise you.


LEMON (on camera): Gun sales have been spiking since the pandemic began. The people fueling the rise, women and Black Americans. Here is CNN's Ryan Young.


UNKNOWN: Raise the slot (ph), eyes and ears.


UNKNOWN: It's a little intimidating.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These Black women at this gun range in Covington, Georgia are practicing how to fire a gun, some of them for the very first time.


MARKS: I needed to learn how (INAUDIBLE) how to's, and do's and don'ts.

YOUNG (on camera): What's it like to be out here with all these Black women?

CARLA RUSSELL, GUN OWNER: It's beautiful. It's -- like I was saying, for me, it's a feeling of self-empowerment.

YOUNG (voice-over): And a desire for training to protect themselves and their families.

RUSSELL: I feel like in this country, in this climate, if you don't know how to take care of yourself, you're at a disadvantage.

YOUNG (voice-over): Gun sales spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic with women and people of color driving the majority of that increase. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of Black buyers increased 58 percent last year compared to 2019, more than any other group.

PHILIP SMITH, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN GUN ASSOCIATION: I think for the most part, we're getting guns for self-defense.

YOUNG (voice-over): Philip Smith is the president of the National African-American Gun Association. He says his group has seen a dramatic increase in membership over the last year.

SMITH: I'm talking to Black doctors, nurses, lawyers, biochemists, from every walk of life in the African-American community, and they're saying, hey, Phil, we have conversations about getting a gun tonight.

YOUNG (voice-over): He says they've seen more interest from women specifically.

SMITH: Black women and Black men (ph) have stepped up, and they are joining in droves.

YOUNG (on camera): Some of people here have never shot before. You can see them getting the one-on-one training before aiming their gun at the target and firing. They said this is something that's very empowering to them and something they're glad they're able to do.

(Voice-over): While the latest spike in gun sales among Black buyers may be driven in part by the pandemic and an uptick in crime in major cities nationwide, it's not necessarily new.

COLIN MAPP, PRESIDENT, BASS REEVES GUN CLUB: I mean, guns have always been in our history. You know, it's just not told.

YOUNG (voice-over): But could carrying a gun for protection become a factor that could lead to a deadly confrontation with police? That's also on the minds of Black gun owners.

SMITH: When you have a gun and you're a Black gun owner, you have a different set of rules.

YOUNG (voice-over): Philando Castile, who was licensed to carry, was shot and killed in 2016 by a police officer during a traffic stop. The officer said he opened fire when he thought Castile put his hand on his firearm. He was later found not guilty on all counts.

SMITH: But we don't want to turn around the next day and say, you know what? We need to put our guns away because that's the worst thing you can do because we're getting shot anyway. We need to protect ourselves and let everyone know that you have a right to the Second Amendment. Our ancestors died for that. My ancestor died for that.

YOUNG (voice-over): On the range, they want to shift what gun ownership in America looks like.

UNKNOWN: Perfect. Wow.

UNKNOWN: Very good shooting.

YOUNG (on camera): Are you hoping to change the perception of Blacks folks and guns?

PURDY: I do. Actually, I do because I don't see why we can't exercise our Second Amendment rights. If everyone else can't, why can't we?

YOUNG (on camera): And, Don, it's really all about changing the perception when it comes to Black people and guns. This effort here is to make sure people realize it's their Second Amendment right to be able to fire and bear arms. That's something repeated over and over again throughout this course and something that people here seem to enjoy.


LEMON (on camera): Ryan Young, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

So the football world is reacting to NFL player Carl Nassib coming out as gay, and in the days since his announcement, he's got one of the top selling jerseys.




LEMON: So, President Biden applauding the courage of two professional athletes who came out this week: Carl Nassib, the NFL's first active player to announce that he is gay, and Kumi Yokoyama, a Washington Spirit soccer player who came out as a transgender man this week.

So joining me now is former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth. Donte, good to see you. It's been a minute. Glad you're on. Let's talk about Nassib, first NFL player to come out as a gay person while still being an active player in the league. You know the pressure of being an NFL player. How much courage did it take for Nassib to speak out publicly and share this like he has done?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: It's taken him 15 years, he said. And, I mean, just thinking about the agony of having the burden of the necessity for him to come out. And he said it himself. He's a pretty private person. But I think one of the more telling things with what happened, with what Carl said in his Instagram post is that he is not necessarily doing this for him. He's more so doing this for the LGBTQ youth who he explicitly stated in his post that, you know, just by one accepting, one caring adult in the life of an LGBTQ youth kid, they -- that decreases the suicide among this community by 40 percent.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

STALLWORTH: Just one person. I think that's a statistic that I didn't know. That's devastating to even have to think about. But the fact that he took that on himself and he put the burden on his shoulders to come out and say, hey, this is my truth and I'm going to live it and I hope that it helps others do the same.

And it obviously will. You're talking about the NFL, right? It's the most manly, macho sport on the planet. But for him to do that and not only for him to come out and do this, but for his teammates to rally around him, for his head coach, for the team owner, for other players, other superstars in the NFL, that means a lot.


STALLWORTH: (INAUDIBLE) means a lot. And I think that, you know, you'll see, hopefully, this open up more doors for other professional athletes, including more NFL players.

LEMON: I want to talk about this because you have been open about the fact that you say that you used to be homophobic. You didn't have any gay friends at the time. But then you took a hard look at yourself, something opened your eyes. So tell me how this has changed for you.

STALLWORTH: Yeah, it was a really interesting scenario for me, just some introspection that I, as a person, never thought, you know, as a young guy, I never thought that I was homophobic because I wasn't looking at gays like I wanted to do them harm, I didn't look at them like, you know, they're a different kind of person.

But I did have that mentality. I did have that attitude. And just because I wasn't verbalizing it in any manner or just because I wasn't vocalizing it doesn't mean that those feelings weren't there.

And it all came to fruition, really, after I was sitting down in a restaurant that I frequented in Miami as an NFL player called Nobu (ph). And I knew everyone there because I was there every day. And I was inviting some of them out because I had a table that night later at this nightclub called Myth (ph). I asked them if they would all like to come and hang out and have drinks, just hang out after a long day of work.

LEMON: Yeah.

STALLWORTH: And so one of my friends there, her name is Dee (ph), she told me that one of the guys wasn't going to come through and I was like, why? Is he busy? He should come. We are all going to be there. And she was like, well, he's gay and, you know -- LEMON: We got a few seconds left.

STALLWORTH: -- the whole NFL macho thing. And I took offense and defense, like, am I giving off these vibes, like, I don't want to be around him?

LEMON: Yeah.

STALLWORTH: And she was like, no, it's the whole NFL kind of macho thing. So, long story short, he ended up coming through later on and he and I talked for like 30, 45 minutes as two human beings and --

LEMON: That began your journey. I'm out of time. Sorry, Donte. I have to get to the next show. I have to get that on the air. But thank you. I appreciate your perspective. As you know, we have you on often. We will have you back. Thanks so much. Be well.

STALLWORTH: Thanks. You, too.

LEMON: And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.