Daniel Defense CEO says industry bears no blame for mass shootings

Marty Daniel, the founder and chief executive of gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, testifies remotely during a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday about the industry's impact on gun violence.

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Marty Daniel, the founder and chief executive of gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, testifies remotely during a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday about the industry's impact on gun violence.

WASHINGTON — The owner of a Georgia-based gun manufacturer said he is “deeply disturbed” by recent mass shootings, including one where his company’s firearm was used to kill 19 children and two teachers at at Texas elementary school.

Marty Daniel said the answer to preventing gun violence is not banning semiautomatic rifles such as the ones sold by Daniel Defense. Asked whether his company bears any blame for the Uvalde shooting or others perpetrated by people carrying its weapons, Daniel said lawmakers should look elsewhere.

“These acts are committed by murderers,” he said. “The murderers are responsible.”

Daniel was one of two gun manufacturing executives to testify at Wednesday’s U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on the impact the industry has on the rise in gun violence. A third, Smith & Wesson President Mark Smith, declined a request to speak voluntarily. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said she will issue a subpoena requiring him to answer questions at a future date.

The committee released a memo ahead of the hearing that said information from the leading five manufacturers of AR-15-style weapons — Daniel Defense, Smith & Wesson, Bushmaster, Sig Sauer and Sturm, Ruger & Co. — showed that these weapons accounted for more than $1 billion in revenue over the past decade. Daniel Defense’s sales for these types of firearms increased from $40 million in 2019 to over $120 million in 2021, the memo said.

Maloney, during the hearing, criticized the manufacturers for sales techniques she said focused on increasing their bottom line even as it became clear that these types of guns were becoming the preferred weapon of choice for those who wanted to kill a large number of people in a short amount of time.

“Our investigation also found that gun manufacturers use dangerous marketing tactics to sell assault weapons to the public,” she said. “That includes marketing to children, preying on young men’s insecurities and even appealing to violent white supremacists. Finally, we found that even as guns kill more Americans than ever, none of those companies take even best basic steps to monitor the deaths and injuries caused by their products. This is beyond irresponsible.”

Daniel Defense is based in Black Creek, about 25 miles from Savannah in southeast Georgia. Marty Daniel told the committee that he is a man of faith and those values are carried out in his company. He said semiautomatic rifles are not much different than other types of firearms that have circulated in America for years, so they should not be blamed for the rise in mass shootings.

“Lately, many Americans, myself included, have witnessed an erosion of personal responsibility in our country and in our culture,” he told the committee. “Mass shootings were all but unheard of just a few decades ago. So what changed? Not the firearms. They are substantially the same as those manufactured over 100 years ago. I believe our nation’s response needs to focus not on the type of gun but on the type of persons who are likely to commit mass shootings.”

In addition to the Uvalde shooting, weapons made by Daniel Defense were also found in the cache left behind by the man who carried out a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Daniel and the other executive at Tuesday’s hearing, Sturm, Ruger & Co. CEO Christopher Killoy, would not agree to stop selling semiautomatic weapons when asked by Democrats. They also resisted calls to implement safety measures such as fingerprint scanners or disconnects that prevent guns from being fired if the magazine is not attached.

The House Judiciary Committee recently recommended legislation to reinstate a ban on those types of rifles, and the bill could come to the floor for a vote after Labor Day. A handful of Republican senators have said they would support the legislation, but at least 10 are needed in order to avoid a filibuster in that chamber.

Three Georgia lawmakers, Democratic U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson and Republican U.S. Reps. Jody Hice and Andrew Clyde, are members of the committee. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, who represents the area where Daniel Defense is located, is not on the committee but was granted permission to participate in the hearing. He highlighted the economic impact of the company to its surrounding community and said it promotes responsible gun ownership to local youth.

Hice and Clyde defended the gun manufacturers and criticize Democrats for efforts they said infringe on the Second Amendment.

“Yes, violent crime is on the increase,” said Hice, who lives in Greensboro. “That’s a concern for all of us. But to go after the manufacturers of guns while at the same time remaining soft on crime, defunding the police, supporting those policies, and keeping our southern border open for all sorts of criminals is absolutely disgusting to me and unthinkable (and) the height of irresponsibility and lack of accountability.”