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Gun manufacturers made more than $1 billion in assault-style weapons sales in the last decade, House panel says

Some companies' earnings tripled from 2019 to 2021 as gun deaths soared, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 
A worker restocks AR-15 guns
A worker restocks AR-15 guns at Davidson Defense in Orem, Utah, on March 20, 2020. George Frey / AFP via Getty Images file

Gun manufacturers have made more than $1 billion from selling assault-style weapons to civilians in the last decade, with some companies seeing their earnings triple as gun deaths soared, a House panel said Wednesday.

Daniel Defense, the company that made the rifle used by the gunman in Uvalde, Texas, took in more than $120 million in sales of AR-15-style rifles in 2021, compared with $40 million in 2019, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 

Sturm, Ruger & Co. also saw its gross earnings nearly triple in the same time frame from $39 million to more than $103 million, the panel said, citing internal financial data it obtained.

Smith & Wesson — which sold the high-powered weapons used in the Fourth of July massacre in Highland Park, Illinois — saw its revenue from all long guns more than doubled from $108 million to $253 million in that time period. 

The House began investigating the gun industry’s profits after the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde. It released its initial findings Wednesday, as the CEOs of Daniel Defense and Sturm, Ruger & Co. were expected to testify at a hearing about the role the firearms industry plays in America’s gun violence epidemic.

“These companies sell weapons to civilians that are engineered to kill many people as fast as possible,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the committee, said in a memorandum. 

“These rifles are the weapon of choice for mass murderers who have terrorized and slaughtered young children at school, worshippers at churches and synagogues, and families celebrating the Fourth of July,” she added.

The committee said leading gun manufacturers used “disturbing sales tactics,” including targeting the weapons to young men to prove their manliness, while failing to take basic steps to monitor the “violence and destruction their products have unleashed.” 

Later this week, the House plans to vote on a ban on assault weapons for the first time since 1994, Maloney said.

More people died from gunfire in the United States in 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, than at any other time on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were more than 45,000 firearm deaths that year. 

From 2019 to 2020, firearm homicide rates in the U.S. increased by almost 35 percent, the highest level recorded in over 25 years, affecting all age groups and widening the existing racial and ethnic disparities across the country, the CDC said.

In addition, active shooter incidents in 2021 surged by more than 50 percent from 2020 and nearly 97 percent from 2017, the FBI said in May.