OPINION: Georgia gunmaker the choice for mass slaughter

A flag flies at half-mast at Daniel Defense’s headquarters in Black Creek, Ga., May 27, 2022. After one of its military-style rifles was used in the Texas elementary school shooting on Tuesday, the gun manufacturer published a pop-up statement on its home page sending “thoughts and prayers” to the community of Uvalde, Texas, and pledging to cooperate with the authorities. (Dylan Wilson/The New York Times)

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A flag flies at half-mast at Daniel Defense’s headquarters in Black Creek, Ga., May 27, 2022. After one of its military-style rifles was used in the Texas elementary school shooting on Tuesday, the gun manufacturer published a pop-up statement on its home page sending “thoughts and prayers” to the community of Uvalde, Texas, and pledging to cooperate with the authorities. (Dylan Wilson/The New York Times)

The AR-15-style rifle used in the most recent carnage in Uvalde, Texas, was manufactured by Daniel Defense, a popular gun company near Savannah that churns out high-quality and profitable products.

The company likes to promote God and guns, not necessarily in that order, and also enjoys pushing the boundaries while peddling its deadly wares, including to teens and young adults.

Just before a twisted 18-year-old entered an elementary school last week and killed 19 children and two adults, Daniel Defense posted an ad online showing a young boy, perhaps 4, with a semi-automatic rifle in his lap. The ad quoted a Biblical passage: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The company took down the ad, perhaps out of a semblance of prudence in a post-massacre environment where passions flame high. Daniel Defense also flew the flag at half-mast outside its Georgia plant and issued a short statement on its website saying “thoughts and prayers” twice, because once is not enough following such horror.

In 2017, the company also issued “thoughts and prayers” after an enigmatic 64-year-old weirdo named Stephen Paddock holed up in a Las Vegas hotel suite and rained down more than 1,000 bullets onto a concert below. Some 58 people were killed and another 500 were either wounded or injured in the ensuing chaos. When authorities burst into his room, they found a cache of military-style semi-automatic rifles, including at least four from Daniel Defense.

The company’s marketing has been effective as Daniel Defense has cranked out a healthy margin, a 35% gross profit, according to Forbes a few years ago.

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Not long before the school shooting in Texas, Daniel Defense ran this ad online.

Credit: Daniel Defense

Not long before the school shooting in Texas, Daniel Defense ran this ad online.

Credit: Daniel Defense

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Not long before the school shooting in Texas, Daniel Defense ran this ad online.

Credit: Daniel Defense

Credit: Daniel Defense

But the ads could be more realistic. Why not a photo of Stephen Paddock and a voiceover saying, “He wanted to embark on a record-breaking bloodbath and instill terror on thousands of fellow Americans, so he opted for Daniel Defense. Our brand exudes quality craftsmanship. And we helped put him in the history books.”

Or you could have scores of heavily armed cops outside a mass-shooting scene, pausing their counter-attack for an hour because their supervisors are afraid to add to the body counts: “If you want to hold government forces at bay with superior fire-power, turn to Daniel Defense.”

Perhaps show film of parents lining up to give DNA samples to help authorities identify the bodies of 10-year-olds who are unrecognizable because the rifle’s high-speed bullets explode inside human flesh: “If you really want to make an impact, choose Daniel Defense.”

It’s sick that this has become the norm: Troubled man with grievance enters school, nightclub, church, grocery store and settles unknown score with an AR-15. Police release a body count. News crews interview survivors or victim’s families. Calls are made to “do something.” A pushback from the gun crowd says “how dare you politicize this.” Nothing gets done.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I contacted Daniel Defense for comment. They declined. They also bowed out of the NRA convention in Texas over the weekend, probably not wanting to seem pushy in their sales.

In 1994, Congress passed an “assault weapon” ban that took aim at military-style, semi-automatic weapons. The 10-year “ban” wasn’t complete but it helped slow down the proliferation. Before 1994, there were about 400,000 weapons in civilian hands. Now there are almost certainly more than 20 million such weapons.

I got those estimates from a story written by Cameron McWhirter, an Atlanta-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He’s also co-authoring a book that will be coming out called “American Gun.” It was something he and reporter Zusha Elinson came up with after covering one-too-many of these shootings.

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The Rev. Bodie Gilbert, pastor of the Bering Memorial United Church of Christ, takes part in a protest rally outside the annual convention of the National Rifle Association in Houston on Friday, May 27, 2022. The convention opened days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers. (Annie Mulligan/The New York Times)

The Rev. Bodie Gilbert, pastor of the Bering Memorial United Church of Christ, takes part in a protest rally outside the annual convention of the National Rifle Association in Houston on Friday, May 27, 2022. The convention opened days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers. (Annie Mulligan/The New York Times)

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The Rev. Bodie Gilbert, pastor of the Bering Memorial United Church of Christ, takes part in a protest rally outside the annual convention of the National Rifle Association in Houston on Friday, May 27, 2022. The convention opened days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers. (Annie Mulligan/The New York Times)

In fact, they must revise the finished manuscript, adding in Buffalo and Uvalde. And God knows what else looms on the horizon.

McWhirter, an intense researcher, said the AR-15 is a semi-automatic version of the M16, which was designed for the military to fight Communist insurgencies in faraway jungles. Military higher-ups were initially concerned about the small-caliber bullet but determined that volume often works best in frenzied firefights.

“They’re designed for a weakling to shoot a lot of bullets in a short period,” McWhirter told me. “It’s really easy. It’s not like shooting a shotgun or a deer rifle (that carry a kick). It’s like trimming your hedges.”

But instead of cutting down faceless enemy in a thicket, Americans can now wade into a school, nightclub, church or grocery store to show the world what they’re made of.

In 2017, Marty Daniel spoke to a TV crew about a memorial service held in Savannah for Army Rangers killed in combat. A photo displayed at that event showed the soldiers and their guns.

“They were holding our product,” Daniel said, while getting emotional. He paused to compose himself and continued: “It’s an honor, and we just appreciate each one of those guys and what they’ve done for our country.”

But it works both ways. If a proud Marty Daniel took time to point out the honor associated with his handiwork. It’s only fair to point out the disgrace.