Smith & Wesson CEO faces backlash after accusing politicians of gun violence

Convention attendees look at weapons at the Smith and Wesson booth last April at the 2015 NRA Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Karen Bléier | AFP | Getty Images

After issuing a statement earlier this week blaming politicians for rising gun violence, Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith is facing further backlash weeks after refusing to testify at a hearing in the House alongside other top executives from other arms manufacturers.

Smith said Monday that his company “would never back down in our defense of the Second Amendment” and also blamed politicians and the news media for the increase in gun violence across the country. The National Rifle Association, the nation’s leading pro-gun group, posted the statement in full on its website.

“A number of politicians and their media lobby partners have recently sought to disparage Smith & Wesson,” Smith wrote.

Oversight committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., pushed back on his remarks in a statement to CNBC on Wednesday, accusing him of seeking to protect the company’s profits.

“The CEO of Smith & Wesson has refused to testify before my committee and stand up to the families who have lost loved ones to his company’s weapons of war,” Maloney said. “The Committee will not allow Smith & Wesson to dodge responsibility or obscure the role of the gun industry in fueling our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”

The Oversight Committee investigated the US firearms industry. According to the panel, major gunmakers, including Smith & Wesson, have earned more than $1 billion over the past decade selling military-style weapons through allegedly manipulative marketing practices.

“Highland Park, Parkland, San Bernardino, Aurora – these mass murders were all committed with Smith & Wesson assault weapons,” Maloney said. “As the world watches the families of the Parkland victims relive their trauma through the shooter’s trial, it is unconscionable that Smith & Wesson still refuses to take responsibility for the sale of the assault weapons used to massacre Americans. “

Kyle Rittenhouse also used a Smith & Wesson rifle to kill two people and injure a third during a 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges related to the shooting.

The non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety also criticized Smith’s statement.

“Smith & Wesson’s bombastic statement — and their CEO dodging a congressional hearing — tells me they’re scared,” said Everytown for Gun Safety executive Nick Suplina.

CNBC has reached out to Smith & Wesson for further comment.

In July, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing with the CEOs of major arms makers Sturm, Ruger & Company and Daniel Defense. They have defended their businesses, arguing that the focus should be on shooters and mental health reform. Smith was also scheduled to appear at the hearing, but withdrew five days prior, according to committee documents.

The committee issued a subpoena to Smith & Wesson for documents related to its manufacture and sale of AR-15 type firearms.

Smith, in his Monday statement, said politicians have “vilified, undermined and funded law enforcement for years, supported prosecutors who refuse to hold criminals accountable for their actions, overseen the degradation of the our country’s sanity infrastructure and generally promoted a culture of lawlessness, Smith & Wesson and other gun manufacturers are somehow responsible for the crime wave that has predictably resulted from these destructive policies. “

He did not name any politicians.

Everytown for Gun Safety participated in a 2020 complaint filed against Smith & Wesson with the Federal Trade Commission. The group accused the company of employing unfair and deceptive practices to market the guns to young male consumers.

“For too long, they have been allowed to shirk responsibility for their role in our nation’s gun violence epidemic and the atrocities that have been perpetrated with their products. Instead, they have done whatever “They could sell more guns to more people, to hell with the consequences. But the American people have had enough,” Suplina said.

Smith & Wesson is expected to release its next quarterly earnings report on September 7. Its stock is down more than 13% so far this year.

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