July 27 (UPI) — Top executives of gun manufacturers defended their products in front of a House committee Wednesday, with the chairwoman accusing them of making money off the blood of Americans.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee questioned firearms manufacturers and multiple experts about the companies’ role in an “epidemic” of gun violence.
Gun makers registered more than $1 billion in sales of assault-style weapons to civilians over the past 10 years as gun deaths and mass shootings soared, the hearing revealed.
Daniel Defense, which made the rifle used in the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting in May, raked in more than $120 million in sales of AR-15-style rifles in 2021, up from $40 million in 2019.
Smith & Wesson, which sells the high-powered weapons used in the Fourth of July massacre in Highland Park, Ill., made $253 million over the same period, compared to $108 million the year before.
The figures brought a rebuke from committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.: “In short, the gun industry is profiting off the blood of innocent Americans.”
Maloney said as the meeting started that she will go through the Justice Department to get the information to hold gun makers accountable for the violence.
“Today, I am announcing my intent to issue a subpoena for documents from Smith & Wesson’s CEO and other top executives, so we can finally get answers about why this company is selling assault weapons to mass murderers — answers we were hoping to get at today’s hearing,” she said
Leaders in the weapons industry pushed back. Daniel Defense’s Marty Daniel said “murderers are responsible” for gun violence, not his weapons.
Chris Killoy, president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co., said an “inanimate object” such as a firearm cannot be blamed for the shootings that have happened in the United States over the past months.
Calls for added gun reform and control measures have amplified in Congress this year following multiple high-profile mass shootings — including the slayings in Uvalde, the parade near Chicago and a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Those three attacks killed dozens of people, including 19 young children at the Texas elementary school.
Since those attacks, there has been a renewed effort in Congress to ban assault weapons and lawmakers have passed the first significant gun reform law in decades.
The role and responsibility of gun manufacturers in mass shootings have been debated for years, particularly as they relate to a federal law that shields gun makers from being sued as a result of gun violence.
In February, firearms manufacturer Remington agreed to pay more than $70 million to settle a suit brought by several families of the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 children in 2012.
Remington said then that it would give nine Sandy Hook families $73 million to settle the case, which accuses Remington of some responsibility for the attack in Newtown, Conn., through its marketing for its Bushmaster XM15-E2S AR-15-style assault rifle.
Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza used that rifle to kill 20 kindergarten and first-grade students and six educators before killing himself. The settlement allowed families to release materials related to how Remington marketed the rifle.
Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to give victims the right to sue irresponsible gun makers and distributors for negligence.
That law allows individuals, local governments and California’s attorney general to sue manufacturers whose products are “abnormally dangerous” and distributors that sell guns that can be illegally converted or sold to people who cannot legally own firearms.
A report this year by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that increased production by gun manufacturers and privately made firearms drove an exponential increase in the number of firearms available in the United States over the past two decades.
According to the ATF report, the number of domestically manufactured guns increased by 187% between 2000 and 2020. The number of firearms exported by U.S. manufacturers rose by 240% and the number of weapons imported surged by 350% over that 20-year span.
Last year, the Mexican government filed a federal lawsuit against 10 major U.S. gun companies over what it said were lax controls that contribute to the illegal flow of weapons across the U.S.-Mexico border.
That suit, filed in Massachusetts, blamed gun makers for actively facilitating the flow of weapons to drug cartels over the past decade. it said more than 2.5 million American guns illegally crossed into Mexico during that time — and nearly three-quarters of all guns that were traced led back to the United States.