ATLANTA – Efforts in Congress to ban the types of assault weapons used in recent mass shootings are aiming at the wrong target, the CEO of a Georgia gun manufacturer said Wednesday.
“I believe our nation’s response needs to focus not on a type of gun but on the type of persons most likely to commit mass shootings,” Marty Daniel, founder and CEO of Bryan County-based Daniel Defense told members of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee. “These acts are committed by murderers. Murderers are responsible.”
Daniel was among the witnesses at the committee’s second hearing on the increase of gun violence in America. Last month, the panel heard gruesome testimony from survivors of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, and law enforcement officials who investigated those killings.
The Democratic-controlled House is expected to vote later this week on legislation banning the sale of military-style assault weapons such as those used in the mass shootings.
Gun violence has become the leading killer of children in the United States, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the committee’s chairman, said at the start of Wednesday’s hearing. The AR-15, with its rapid-fire capability, has become the “weapon of choice” for mass shooters, Maloney said.
Five major firearms manufacturers have collected more than $1 billion in revenue from assault weapons during the last decade through “dangerous” marketing practices designed to appeal to children, she said.
“This is the very definition of putting profits over people,” Maloney said. “The time for dodging accountability is over.”
Daniel said he was horrified by the “pure evil” of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, where the killer used an AR-15 manufactured by Daniel Defense.
But policy makers can put an end to such mass killings without banning lawful and popular weapons Americans are buying in increasing numbers to defend themselves, he said.
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, a member of the committee, said Democrats are going after gun manufacturers for political purposes while not dealing with the real reasons for the rise in violent crime.
“When are we going to have hearings in this committee holding people responsible … for being soft on crime?” Hice asked. “This is like saying we’re going to blame the manufacturers of forks and spoons for obesity.”
Advocates on both sides of the gun issue also testified Wednesday.
Former high-level gun industry executive Ryan Busse said he quit the business as firearms manufacturers’ marketing became increasingly irresponsible. Busse said there’s no longer room in the industry for “moderation or sensible regulation.”
“Any rational person can see the direct line between their marketing and troubled young men,” he said.
But Antonia Okafor, director of women’s outreach for Gun Owners of America, urged lawmakers not to ban the AR-15 because it’s light enough for women to use.
“The No.-1 reason women buy rifles is for self-defense,” she said. “Banning these firearms will only make it more difficult for women like me to defend their families.”
Even if the Democratic majority in the House passes an assault weapons ban, it would stand little chance in the U.S. Senate, where the rules require at least 10 Republicans to vote with the chamber’s 50 Democrats to pass a bill.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.