After one of its military-style rifles was used in the Texas elementary school shooting, the gun manufacturer Daniel Defense posted a pop-up statement sending “thoughts and prayers” to Uvalde and pledging to cooperate with authorities. When the pop-up disappeared, a promotion adorned with gold-encased bullets advertised a sweepstakes to win $15,000 worth of guns or ammunition. The Texas shooting put a national spotlight on Daniel Defense, a family-owned business in Georgia that the New York Times says has emerged as a trailblazer in an aggressive, boundary-pushing style of weapons marketing. Some of its ads invoke popular video games like “Call of Duty” and feature “Star Wars” characters and Santa Claus, messages likely to appeal to teenagers.
Daniel was an early adopter of a direct-to-consumer business model to make buying military gear as simple as ordering from Amazon, enticing customers with “adventure now, pay later” installment plans that make expensive weaponry more affordable. The company’s founder and chief executive, Marty Daniel, ridicules gun control proposals and uses publicity stunts to drum up sales. “Daniel Defense is basically the poster child of this egregious, aggressive marketing,” said Ryan Busse, a former executive at the gun company Kimber who is now an industry critic. “Marty Daniel burst in the door, a lot louder and more brazen than other gun makers, much like Donald Trump did on the political scene.” Daniel Defense’s strategy seems effective. Its sales have soared, partly by targeting young customers like Salvador Ramos, the gunman in Texas. Ramos appears to have bought his assault rifle directly from Daniel Defense, less than a week after turning 18.