U.S. gun manufacturers made more than $1 billion off the sale of AR-15-style assault rifles over the past decade, according to a House committee investigation released Wednesday, as congressional Democrats push for a ban on the guns in the wake of a string of mass shootings.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform found revenue from AR-15-style rifles roughly tripled from 2019 to 2021 for two companies: Daniel Defense ($40 million to over $120 million), which made the rifle used by an 18-year-old school shooter in May in Uvalde, Texas, and Ruger ($39 million to over $103 million).
Smith & Wesson, one of the largest gunmakers in the U.S., more than doubled its revenue from AR-15s over the same time, from $108 million in 2019 to $253 million last year.
The committee’s investigation was launched in May, following mass shootings that killed 10 at a grocery store in Buffalo and 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde—both of which were carried out with AR-15s, which the committee dubbed killers’ “weapon of choice.”
The committee said AR-15 rifles are “engineered to kill many people as fast as possible,” and often marketed with advertisements that “mimic first-person shooter video games popular with children.”
AR-15-style rifles were used in a number of recent mass shootings, including the Fourth of July shooting outside Chicago, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the 2017 massacre from a high-rise hotel in Las Vegas and the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The investigation into gunmakers’ revenue comes as House Democrats push for a vote on a bill to ban assault weapons before Congress goes on its August break in two weeks. Assault weapons were previously banned nationwide from 1994 to 2004, and several states have passed their own bans.
What We Don’t Know
Whether the bill is able to pass the House, where Democrats can only lose four votes if Republicans are unanimously opposed. Two House Democrats have already told the Associated Press they will not vote in favor of it. But even with a positive vote in the House, the bill faces long odds in a split Senate, where Democrats need 10 Republicans to join in order to overcome the filibuster, before it can move to President Joe Biden’s desk.
“It is clear gun manufacturers are fueling a public health epidemic and Congress has a responsibility to take bold action to stop them,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), who chairs the committee, tweeted Wednesday. “Their marketing and selling tactics are dangerous and exploitative.”
24.4 million. That’s how many AR-15 and AK-style rifles were manufactured in the U.S. or imported into the U.S. from 1990 to 2020, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The group also estimates the U.S. manufactured or imported a record 2.8 million of the rifles in 2020.
The National Rifle Association, one of the biggest opponents to gun-control measures, argued Monday proponents of the bill are “selling a lie.” The NRA said the legislation will not “rid the U.S. of a particularly dangerous type of firearm” or “save lives,” because the proposed ban does nothing to “limit a bad actor’s access to virtually any sort of firearm he wanted.”