New York Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez confronted CEOs of gun manufacturer companies during a tense hearing on Wednesday.
Testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the parents of one of the children killed in the Uvalde massacre, Daniel Defense CEO Marty Daniel and Ruger CEO Christopher Killoy maintained their companies have played no part in the epidemic of mass shootings in the US.
During the hearing, Ms Ocasio-Cortez showed one Daniel Defense 2017 ad featuring an image of a shooter with a tattoo of a Valknot, a Norse symbol that has become increasingly popular among far-right and white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys, the boogaloo boys, and the Oath Keepers.
The New York representative proceeded to show a picture of the self-proclaimed ‘‘Q-Anon Shaman’’ when he stormed the Capitol on Jan 6. The picture featured the man’s chest and his Valknot tattoo in the middle of it.
Mr Daniel said he was not aware of the iconography and that he did not directly participate in advertising. He decried the recent wave of massacres across America but said they were a ‘‘local problem that should be addressed locally.’’
“Mass shootings were all but unheard-of just a few decades ago,” Mr Daniel said.
“So what changed? Not the firearms. They are substantially the same as those manufactured over 100 years ago.”
Addressing Mr Killoy, Ms Ocasio-Cortez inquired whether he condemned the gun industry’s explicit marketing of weapons at domestic terror threats.
‘‘I’d never seen that ad before, I didn’t know what it was tied to. I am not an expert in that field,’’ Mr Killoy answered, referencing a Palmetto rifle with a similar floral pattern to that used by the boogaloo boys.
The committee’s inquiry, opened in May, found disturbing details about the marketing tactics used by the biggest five gun manufacturers in the US.
Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the AR-15-style rifle that the Uvalde gunman used to kill 19 children and two teachers, offers its firearms for sale through a buy-now, pay-later, financing system advertised on its website.
It takes just five clicks to order the weapon, Quartz reported. The company’s revenue from AR-15-style rifles tripled from 2019 to last year, from $40m to more than $120m.
Meanwhile, Ruger’s gross earnings from the same style rifles nearly tripled from 2019 to 2021, from $39m to over $103m. Ruger’s rifles and pistols were used by mass shooters in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017 and Boulder, Colorado, in 2021.
Ruger acknowledged that it only learns about incidents where individuals have been killed with its weapons through its “customer service department,” the media, or “occasionally” from lawsuits.
‘‘These companies used disturbing sales tactics—including marketing deadly weapons as a way for young men to prove their manliness and selling guns to mass shooters on credit—while failing to take even basic steps to monitor the violence and destruction their products have unleashed,’’ New York representative Carolyn Maloney said in a statement.