Washington (AFP) – US gun makers earned $1 billion in the past decade from sales of AR-15-style semiautomatic weapons, a House committee said Wednesday as lawmakers grilled firearms manufacturers after a series of grim mass shootings.
“The gun industry has flooded our neighborhoods, our schools and even our churches and synagogues with these deadly weapons and has gotten rich doing it,” Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney said.
“They are choosing their bottom line over the lives of their fellow Americans,” the New York lawmaker told a tense day-long hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “This is beyond irresponsible.”
Maloney and other Democrats accused the gun manufacturers of using “dangerous” marketing tactics to sell firearms to young people and of failing to “acknowledge their role in the violence plaguing our nation.”
“We know the power of marketing, especially the power of marketing to young people, whether it’s cereal or cigarettes, or in this case, guns,” said Bradley Schneider, a Democratic congressman who lives in Highland Park, where a young man shot dead seven people during a July 4 parade.
At a hearing attended by several relatives of victims of recent mass shootings, Democrats called for a lifting of the immunity from lawsuits enjoyed by gun makers so they can be held accountable.
Under a 2005 law, gun manufacturers are not liable in the United States for the use of their firearms in the commission of a crime.
Marty Daniel, chief executive officer of Daniel Defense — maker of the gun used by a young man to kill 19 school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas — defended his company’s business practices.
“The stated implied purpose of this hearing is to vilify, blame and try to ban over 24 million sporting rifles already in circulation that are lawfully possessed and commonly used by millions of Americans to protect their homes and loved ones,” Daniel said.
“I believe our nation’s response needs to focus not on the type of gun but on the types of persons who are likely to commit mass shootings,” he said.
Christopher Killoy, president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co., said it would be “wrong to deprive citizens of their constitutional right to purchase a lawful firearm they desire because of the criminal acts of wicked people.”
Bill to ban assault weapons
Republican lawmakers also pushed back against their Democratic colleagues.
“Gun manufacturers do not cause violent crime,” said Representative James Comer of Kentucky. “Criminals cause violent crime.”
“We’ll continue to protect the rights of all law-abiding gun owners who safely use, store and carry firearms including the AR-15,” Comer said.
According to a report by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, five major gun manufacturers reaped more than $1 billion from the sale of assault rifles over the last decade.
Daniel Defense’s revenue from AR-15-style rifles tripled from $40 million in 2019 to more than $120 million in 2021, the report said.
Ruger’s earnings from AR-15-style rifles rose from $39 million to $103 million during the period while Smith & Wesson’s revenue from long guns, including AR-15-style rifles, doubled, from $108 million to $253 million.
The Democratic-controlled House is moving forward for the first time in nearly 20 years with a bill that would ban the sale, import, manufacture or transfer of certain types of semi-automatic weapons.
The “Assault Weapons Ban of 2021” would likely be doomed to fail in the Senate, however.
Democrats have 50 seats in the 100-member Senate and 10 Republican votes would be needed to bring the measure to the floor.
Congress passed a 10-year ban on assault rifles and certain high-capacity magazines in 1994.
But lawmakers let it expire in 2004, and sales of those weapons have soared since then.
After the Uvalde massacre, President Joe Biden appealed to lawmakers to again ban assault rifles or at least raise the minimum age for buying them from 18 to 21.
But Republican lawmakers, who see such a restriction as going against the constitutional right to bear arms, have refused to go along with Biden’s proposal.