During a hearing intended to examine the accountability of the firearms industry in America’s gun violence epidemic on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, executives from two gun manufacturers refused to take any responsibility for recent mass shootings carried out by gunmen using assault weapons made by their companies.
Marty Daniel, founder and CEO of Daniel Defense, which manufactured the AR-15-style rifle that was used by the 18-year-old gunman in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that he was “deeply disturbed” by the massacres in Uvalde, Highland Park, Ill., and Buffalo, N.Y.
“What we saw in Uvalde, Buffalo and Highland Park was pure evil,” Daniel said in his testimony, which was given virtually. “Lately, many Americans, myself included, have witnessed an erosion of personal responsibility.”
Mass shootings, Daniel said, were “all but unheard of just a few decades ago — so what changed? Not the firearms.”
“I believe our nation’s response needs to focus not on the type of gun but on the type of persons who are likely to commit mass shootings,” he said.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the committee, asked Daniel if he felt any personal responsibility for manufacturing and marketing the gun used by the gunman in Uvalde.
“I believe these murders are local problems that have to be solved locally,” Daniel said. “These acts are committed by murderers. Murderers are responsible.”
Maloney asked the same of Christopher Killoy, president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co., which manufactured the semiautomatic rifle used in the 2017 mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were killed.
“With all due respect, while I grieve, like all Americans, at these tragic incidences, again, to blame the firearm — the firearm is an inanimate object,” Killoy said.
The committee also invited Mark P. Smith, president and CEO of Smith & Wesson, to testify Wednesday. According to Maloney, Smith initially agreed to appear, but then declined.
The hearing was held on the day the committee released a report that found that five of the nation’s top gun manufacturers have pulled in more than $1 billion over the past decade, as gun violence soared in the U.S.
According to the findings, Daniel Defense’s revenue from AR-15-style rifles tripled from 2019 to 2021, from $40 million to over $120 million. Ruger’s gross earnings from AR-15-style rifles ($103 million) also nearly tripled in that span.
Smith & Wesson’s revenue from all long guns ($253 million), which include AR-15-style rifles, more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, the report said.
Sig Sauer refused to disclose its revenue to the committee; Bushmaster — which manufactured and marketed the weapon used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. — said it had no financial data from previous years because it was recently purchased by a new company.
Wednesday’s hearing also examined the efforts of gun manufacturers to market assault weapons to young men, like those who carried out the shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Highland Park.
Ryan Busse, senior adviser at the Giffords Law Center, pointed to an advertisement that Daniel Defense posted online just days before the massacre at Robb Elementary of a toddler cradling one of its AR-15-style rifles.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” reads the caption — a reference to a Bible proverb — which ends with an emoji of two hands held together in prayer.
"Despite guns being the center of radicalized domestic terrorists, there is no industry rebuke," Busse said. "Any rational person can see the direct lines from this marketing to the troubled young men who kill people in places like Buffalo and El Paso and Uvalde."