Jae C. Hong/AP
WASHINGTON — Gunmakers have made more than $1 billion selling AR-15-style weapons over the past decade, sometimes marketing them as a way for young men to prove their masculinity, so even as the number of mass shootings increases, according to a House investigation released Wednesday.
The weapons have been used in massacres that have horrified the nation, including one that left 10 dead at a grocery store in Buffalo and another where 19 children and two teachers were gunned down in Uvalde, Texas.
The Oversight and Reform Committee said some ads mimic popular first-person shooter video games or tout the weapons’ military pedigree while others say the weapons will put buyers “at the top of the food chain of testosterone”.
These sales tactics are “deeply disturbing, exploitative and reckless,” said Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York. “In short, the gun industry profits from the blood of innocent Americans.”
Gunmakers, on the other hand, have said that AR-15-style rifles are responsible for a small portion of firearm homicides and that the blame should lie with the shooters rather than their guns.
“What we saw at Uvalde, Buffalo and Highland Park was pure evil,” said Marty Daniels, CEO of Daniel Defense, the company that made the gun used in Texas. “The cruelty of the murderers who committed these acts is unfathomable and deeply disturbs me, my family, my employees and millions of Americans across this country.”
However, he later added during committee testimony, “I believe these killings are local issues that need to be resolved locally.
Gun violence has increased overall in 2020, but recent statistics indicate that it is decreasing this year in many cities.
The House panel’s investigation focused on five major firearms manufacturers and found that they had made a combined total of more than $1 billion in revenue over the past 10 years from the sale of AR-15 firearms. The revenue figures were released for the committee’s hearing focused on the marketing and sale of firearms that gained notoriety due to their use in the killings.
Two of the companies have roughly tripled their weapons revenue over the past three years, the committee found. Daniel Defense, based near Savannah, Georgia, grew that revenue from $40 million in 2019 to more than $120 million last year. The company sells weapons like the one used in Uvalde on credit and announces that financing can be approved “in seconds”.
Salvador Ramos, accused in the Uvalde shooting, started buying guns and ammunition when he was 18, eventually spending more than $5,000 on two AR-style rifles, ammunition and more equipment in the days before the massacre, authorities said.
Sturm, Ruger & Co.’s gross revenue, meanwhile, has nearly tripled from $39 million to $103 million since 2019, and Smith and Wesson said its revenue from all long guns had doubled from 2019 to 2021. Gunmakers, the committee said, do not collect and analyze gun-related safety data.
The increases come amid a record overall increase in gun sales that began near the start of the coronavirus pandemic. About 8.5 million people bought firearms for the first time in 2020, Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia said. He added that “Americans have the right to own guns.”
The hearing comes amid a push by House Democrats to pass legislation banning certain semi-automatic weapons. It’s lawmakers’ most ambitious response to the shootings this summer.
While AR-15-style firearms aren’t necessarily the biggest drivers of gun violence in the United States, their design allows shooters to hurt more people at greater ranges, said senior attorney Kelly Sampson. and director of racial justice at Brady, a group pushing to end gun violence that generally supports the restrictions.
“If we renew the ban on assault weapons, it would take away a key part of what allows mass shooters to kill more people in less time without having to stop to reload,” she said. declared.
There have been 15 mass killings this year, according to Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killing Database. According to this research, these incidents resulted in 86 deaths and 63 injuries. Firearms were used in all of them, and in at least seven cases they were AR-15 type weapons. Mass murders are defined as incidents in which at least four people are killed.
But the AR-15 and similar weapons are also popular with people buying guns for self-defense, said Antonia Okafor, national outreach director for Gun Owners of America. Such rifles allow people, including women, to shoot a larger weapon without having to absorb as much recoil.
“The AR-15 makes it easier for those at a physical disadvantage to the attacker to gain the upper hand,” she said.
Wednesday’s hearing marked the first time in 20 years that the CEOs of major firearms manufacturers testified about their businesses, Maloney said.