Gun makers have taken in more than $1 billion from selling AR-15-style guns over the past decade, at times marketing them as a way for young men to prove their masculinity, even as the number of mass shootings increases, the Associated Press reports. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform said that some ads mimic popular first-person shooter video games or tout the weapons’ military pedigree while others claim the guns will put buyers “at the top of the testosterone food chain.” Those sales tactics are “deeply disturbing, exploitative and reckless,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Gun makers, on the other hand, said AR-15-style rifles are responsible for a small portion of gun homicides and the blame must go to the shooters rather than their weapons. “What we saw in Uvalde, Buffalo and Highland Park was pure evil,” said Marty Daniels, the CEO of Daniel Defense, the company that made the weapon used in Texas. However, he added later in testimony to the committee, “I believe that these murders are local problems that have to be solved locally.”
The House panel’s investigation focused on five major gunmakers. The revenue numbers were released for the committee hearing focused on the marketing and sales of the firearms that have gained notoriety because of their use in mass killings. Two of the companies, Daniel Defense and Sturm, Ruger & Co., approximately tripled their revenue from the weapons over the past three years, the committee found. The increases are against a backdrop of a record-setting overall increase in gun sales that began around the start of the coronavirus pandemic. About 8.5 million people bought guns for the first time in 2020, said Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA). The hearing comes amid a push by House Democrats to get legislation passed that would ban certain semi-automatic weapons. It’s the lawmakers’ most far-reaching response yet to this summer’s mass shootings. While AR-15-style firearms aren’t necessarily the main drivers of U.S. gun violence overall, their design allows shooters to harm more people from a greater distance, said Kelly Sampson of Brady, a group pressing to end gun violence. The AR-15 and similar weapons are also popular with people who buy guns for self defense, said Antonia Okafor of Gun Owners of America. Such rifles allow people, including women, to shoot a larger gun without having to absorb as much recoil, she said. Wednesday’s hearing marked the first time in 20 years that CEOs of leading gun manufacturers testified about their businesses, Maloney said.