CEO of gunmaker Smith Wesson blames politicians for gun violence

Smith & Wesson SD VE 9mm semi-automatic pistols are seen for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, California, U.S., April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Bing Guan (Bing Guan / reuters)
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Amid a congressional investigation of gun manufacturers after back-to-back mass shootings this spring, Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith released a defiant statement criticizing politicians and the news media as at fault for violent crime.

In the statement posted Monday on Twitter, he accused "a number of politicians and their lobbying partners in the media" of trying to "disparage" his company and shift blame to gunmakers. Smith, who refused to testify before the House Oversight Committee, said politicians had "vilified, undermined and defunded law enforcement" and "generally promoted a culture of lawlessness," causing a wave of crime.

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"They are the ones to blame for the surge in violence and lawlessness," Smith wrote.

Homicide rates dropped slightly in the first half of this year compared with 2021, yet they remain nearly 40% higher than where they stood before the pandemic, according to a report the Council on Criminal Justice released last month. The think tank also found a sharp decline in the percentage of reported robberies and property crimes.

Gun deaths, however, have spiked. In 2020 and 2021, there were 45,000 such fatalities - the highest number recorded since 1995, The Washington Post reported last month. The increase came as gun purchases also hit record levels.

Mass shootings in which four or more people are killed represent a small fraction of gun violence. They account for fewer than 1% of people killed by firearms, The Post reported. Yet such incidents are increasing, and they capture widespread attention because they take a toll on Americans' psyches, creating fear of being in public places.

The Oversight Committee probe of gun manufacturers began in late May, after mass shootings at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store and a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school left 31 people dead in less than two weeks. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the panel's chairwoman, contacted five companies seeking information about the manufacturing, sale and marketing of AR-15-style weapons used in the two incidents. Each gun used in the shootings was purchased legally.

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Along with Smith & Wesson, which produced the weapon used at a Fourth of July mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., the businesses under investigation include Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the rifle used at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, and Bushmaster, the maker of the weapon used at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo. Sig Sauer, which made the gun used at the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.,, and Sturm, Ruger & Co., which manufactured the one used in a 2017 Sutherland Springs, Texas, massacre, are part of the probe as well.

Over the past decade, the five companies made more than $1 billion selling "military-style assault weapons to civilians," the House committee reported last month.

"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," Maloney said during a hearing on the issue.

Chief executives from Daniel Defense and Ruger testified before the committee, defending ownership of military-style firearms and arguing that the focus should be on the shooters rather than the guns.

After Smith's refusal to appear at the hearing, the House committee subpoenaed documents on Smith & Wesson's sale and marketing of AR-15-style rifles. In a letter notifying the CEO of the subpoena, Maloney wrote that the company told the committee that it "makes no effort" to track injury, deaths or crimes associated with such weapons.

Smith said in the Monday statement that "certain politicians" were trying to pass laws to restrict the Second Amendment and prohibit "advertising products in a manner designed to remind law-abiding citizens that they have a Constitutional right to bear arms in defense of themselves and their families."

He added, "We will never back down in our defense of the 2nd Amendment."

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