Baltimore Sun

Panel slams ads for AR-15-style guns

Company execs say not responsibl­e for US mass shootings

- By Annie Karni

WASHINGTON — The leading manufactur­ers of semi-automatic rifles used to perpetrate the deadliest mass shootings in the United States have collected more than $1.7 billion in revenue from AR-15 style weapons over the past decade as gun violence across the country has surged, according to a House investigat­ion presented on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

The findings, released before a congressio­nal hearing on the marketing of semi-automatic rifles, indicate that the gun industry has thrived by selling and marketing military-grade weapons to civilians, specifical­ly targeting and playing to the insecuriti­es of young men, while some have made thinly veiled references to white supremacis­t groups.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform opened an investigat­ion into the gun manufactur­ing industry in May after the gun massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers and a racially motivated mass shooting in a Buffalo, New York, supermarke­t that killed 10 people.

The panel requested that the country’s top five gun manufactur­ers share informatio­n on their sales and marketing strategies, as well as any efforts they make to track safety data related to their products.

“The business practices of these gun manufactur­ers are deeply disturbing, exploitati­ve

and reckless,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the committee, said in a statement. “These companies use aggressive marketing tactics to target young people — especially young men — and some even evoke symbols of white supremacy.”

On Wednesday, the top executives of two of those companies appeared before the committee, testifying that they bore no responsibi­lity for the surge in gun violence that has taken hold in the U.S. or the use of semi-automatic rifles used in mass shootings, even as their revenues from such weapons have soared.

The gun manufactur­ing executives said the military-grade weapons they make and market to civilians had nothing to do with the increase in violence in recent years.

“Mass shootings were all but unheard — of just a few decades ago,” Marty Daniel, CEO of Daniel Defense, said, testifying remotely before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “So what changed? Not the firearms. They are substantia­lly the same as those manufactur­ed over 100 years ago.”

Daniel, whose company manufactur­ed the weapon used in the Uvalde massacre, called the mass shooting

there “horrible.” But he said any response to the rise in such events had to focus “not on the type of gun, but on the type of persons who are likely to commit mass shootings.”

Daniel added: “I cannot even imagine what those innocent children had to go through.” But he avoided answering whether he felt any personal responsibi­lity, saying, “These murders are local problems that have to be solved locally.”

The committee also heard testimony from Christophe­r Killoy, president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co. — the first time in nearly two decades that the CEOs

of gun manufactur­ers have testified before Congress about their business practices.

Killoy, who also testified remotely, said that “a firearm, any firearm, can be used for good or for evil. The difference is in the individual possessing it.”

The manufactur­ers that were investigat­ed — Bushmaster; Daniel Defense; Sig Sauer; Smith & Wesson; and Sturm, Ruger & Co. — all marketed their weapons to young men as a way to “prove their manliness,” according to the report, and sold “guns to mass shooters on credit” while failing to take basic steps to monitor deaths associated with their products.

Daniel Defense’s revenue from AR-15-style rifles tripled from 2019 to 2021, to more than $120 million from $40 million, the report said. Its revenue from AR-15-style rifles since 2012 was $528 million.

Ruger, the country’s largest maker of rifles, reported that its gross earnings from AR-15-style rifles also nearly tripled from 2019 to 2021, increasing to more than $103 million from $39 million, with sales revenue from such guns over the past decade amounting to $514 million.

Smith & Wesson’s revenue from long guns, which include AR-15-style rifles, more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, to $253 million from $108 million. The company sold the weapon used in the July 4 massacre in Highland Park, Illinois, as well as the Parkland school shooting in Florida in 2018. The report said the company made at least $695 million from AR-15style weapons since 2012.

Sig Sauer, the company that sold the AR-15-style rifle used in a mass shooting in 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, refused to disclose its revenue.

And Bushmaster, which made the weapon used in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticu­t, in 2012, said it had no financial data from previous years because it was recently purchased by a new company.

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., said gun sales had risen because more law-abiding citizens were purchasing weapons to protect themselves amid worries about rising crime.

 ?? HAIYUN JIANG/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Felix and Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Alexandria ‘Lexi” Aniyah Rubio was murdered in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, attend a hearing Wednesday of the House Oversight Committee.
HAIYUN JIANG/THE NEW YORK TIMES Felix and Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Alexandria ‘Lexi” Aniyah Rubio was murdered in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, attend a hearing Wednesday of the House Oversight Committee.

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