Maker of Gun Used in School Massacre to Skip NRA Meeting

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(Bloomberg) -- The maker of the gun used to kill 19 children and two teachers in Texas this week won’t attend the National Rifle Association’s meeting Friday in Houston.

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Daniel Defense is skipping the gathering “due to the horrifying tragedy in Uvalde, Texas where one of our products was criminally misused,” Steve Reed, a spokesman for the Georgia-based company, said in an email. “We believe this week is not the appropriate time to be promoting our products in Texas at the NRA meeting.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott also dropped plans to address the gun lobby’s annual meeting in person after the worst US school shooting in almost a decade.

Daniel Defense was founded more than 20 years ago by Marty Daniel, its chief executive officer. He got the idea to start the business in 1999 after “a friend invited him to shoot his AR,” according to the company’s website.

The privately held, family-owned company was likely worth about $120 million as of 2020, with $78.7 million in revenue and an earnings margin of about 10%, according to data provider PrivCo. It made Inc. Magazine’s list of America’s fastest-growing companies in 2012, 2013 and 2014, according to the company’s website.

A 2015 Navy Postgraduate School report found that Daniel Defense sold almost 30,000 M4/AR-15s in 2013, after making between 3,000 and 7,000 from 2009 to 2012.

Newtown Effect

Sales jumped that year because of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Daniel said in a 2017 interview with Forbes.

“That was a horrible event and we don’t use those kinds of terrible things to drive sales but when people see politicians start talking about gun control, they have this fear and they go out and buy guns,” he said.

More recently, Daniel Defense has received money from the US government. It got more than $3 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the highest amount among recipients in Bryan County, Georgia, according to a report last year in the Savannah Morning News.

The Defense Department also awarded the company a $9.1 million contract in March for work that’s expected to be completed by 2027.

After the massacre this week in Uvalde, the company released a statement that it was “deeply saddened by the tragic events.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community devastated by this evil act,” said Reed, the spokesman. “We will cooperate with all federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities in their investigations. We will keep the families of the victims and the entire Uvalde community in our thoughts and our prayers.”

Attempts to reach Daniel and his wife, Cindy, were unsuccessful.

Cruz Support

The couple has donated to Republican politicians and took a photo with Donald Trump Jr. at the SHOT Show in 2018. Daniel said in the Forbes interview that he voted for Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, but was “100% behind” Donald Trump once he won the nomination.

Little is publicly available about the family’s wealth. A tax-exempt corporation called Assets For Christ lists Daniel as its executive director and principal officer and has the same Black Creek, Georgia, address as the gun manufacturer.

The organization, which acquires, develops and owns property for Presbyterian Church in America and other religious groups, had about $1.8 million of assets as of April 2020, according to an Internal Revenue Service filing.

Daniel Defense had split its operations between Black Creek, west of Savannah, and South Carolina until consolidating them in Georgia several years ago in a 300,000-square-foot (27,870-square-meter) manufacturing facility.

Other firearms and ammunition companies have also moved into the state in recent years, including firearms manufacturer Remington, which last year announced it would relocate its headquarters to Georgia from upstate New York.

(Updates with PPP money starting in ninth paragraph)

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