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Top executives from two leading gun manufacturers refused to apologize or take responsibility for their alleged roles in mass shootings during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday.
The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), pressed the executives from Ruger and Daniel Defense, two leading gun manufacturing companies, on the sales and marketing of assault-style rifles, which have been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings.
Weapons manufactured by Ruger were used in shootings at a church Sutherland Springs, Texas, which claimed the lives of 26 people in 2017 and a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., which left 10 dead last year. Daniel Defense weapons were used in the elementary school shooting that killed 21 people in Uvalde, Texas, and the music festival shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59.
“I want to give you the opportunity now to show personal responsibility,” said Maloney. “Will you accept personal responsibility for your company’s role in this tragedy and apologize to the families of Uvalde?”
Marty Daniel, CEO of Daniel Defense, eluded the question, shifting responsibility instead to the gunman.
“These acts are committed by murderers,” said Daniel. “The murderers are responsible.”
When similarly asked to apologize, Christopher Killoy, president and CEO of Ruger, refused, arguing a gun is “an inanimate object.”
The showdown between lawmakers and gun executives comes as the House committee released a report detailing the more than $1 billion in revenue five major gun companies collected from sales of assault weapons over the last decade.
Daniel Defense made more than $120 million and Ruger more than $103 million from the weapons in 2021, according to the committee.
Democrats blasted the manufacturers for their sales tactics, saying they target young buyers and lean into right-wing extremism to help drive sales.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) highlighted an ad from Daniel Defense that showcased one of the company’s mounting platforms for an AR-15 that depicts a military member and reads, “USE WHAT THEY USE.”
“This isn’t … about self-protection and protecting my home,” said Connolly. “This is in fact invoking a military image explicitly and inviting you to purchase the same kind of military-style weapon the military has.”
Killoy said his company was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, characterizing the tension between the right to bear arms and those who use them to do harm as a “complex topic.”
“We firmly believe that it is wrong to deprive citizens of their constitutional right to purchase the lawful firearm they desire because of the criminal acts of wicked people,” Killoy added.
Republicans defended the gun companies, framing Democratic policy proposals, such as a possible assault weapons ban, as attacks on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
“What my colleagues are doing is unbelievably beyond the pale of anything reasonable or constitutional,” said Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), contending that Democratic proposals would lead to officials seizing weapons from citizens.
“Will we have that debate reasonably, through … the legislative branch? Or will it be settled on the front porch of Americans, when the FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) show up to seize legally owned weapons?”
House Democrats on Wednesday pushed back a vote on assault weapons legislation into next month, giving negotiators more time to work out details and disagreements.
Maloney announced at the hearing she would issue a subpoena for documents from Smith & Wesson’s CEO, who declined to attend the hearing, to “finally get answers about why this company is selling assault weapons to mass murderers.”