House Democrats Push Gun Manufacturers to End Sale of ‘Assault Weapons’

House Democrats Push Gun Manufacturers to End Sale of ‘Assault Weapons’
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington on June 8, 2022. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee pressed executives of two top U.S. gun manufacturers during a July 27 hearing to end the sale of so-called assault weapons amid a sharp increase in gun violence across the nation.

The hearing—coming in the wake of two deadly shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York—featured testimony from the CEOs of two firearms makers.

“The gun industry has flooded our neighborhoods, our schools, even our churches and synagogues, and gotten rich doing it,” Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in her opening statement at the hearing.

During the hearing, Democrats asked Sturm, Ruger & Co. President and CEO Christopher Killoy and Daniel Defense CEO Marty Daniel to commit to ending the sale of “assault weapons,” a term with a much-debated meaning that critics have described as an undefined catchall term.

Killoy and Daniel defended the industry, shrugging off Democrats’ accusations that gun-makers are responsible for the mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo.

“A firearm, any firearm, can be used for good or evil,” Killoy said. “The difference is in the intent of the individual possessing it.”

Killoy added that blaming an “inanimate object” like a firearm for actions committed by a person is a thinly veiled attempt to deprive law-abiding U.S. citizens of their Second Amendment rights.

“We firmly believe that it is wrong to deprive citizens of their constitutional right to purchase a lawful firearm they desire because of the criminal acts of wicked people,” he said. “The difference is in the intent of the individual possessing it, which we respectfully submit should be the focus of any investigation into the root causes of criminal violence involving firearms.”

Daniel struck the same tone.

“These acts are committed by murderers,”  he said. “The murderers are responsible.”

The panel’s Democrats noted a series of advertisements showing the use of military-style firearms in military or combat-like situations, including one such ad that appeared to show a sniper taking aim at a vehicle on a crowded city street.

“We shouldn’t be surprised when young men purchase these weapons to be more like soldiers, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they try to act like them, too,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said.

Republicans on the panel, on the other hand, denounced Democrats for blaming firearms for the rash of gun violence, saying that the focus should instead be on Democrats’ “soft-on-crime” policies that have led to a rapid uptick in violent crime during the past few years.

“It’s absolutely disgusting to me and unthinkable, the height of irresponsibility and lack of accountability,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) “My colleagues seem to forget that the American people have a right to own guns.”

Another Republican, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), got into a heated exchange with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) at one point in the hearing, saying that depriving citizens of the right to own a firearm would leave law-abiding citizens unprepared to defend themselves against criminals, who don’t follow gun laws.

“My colleagues in the Democratic Party, when those gun fights happen, that blood will be on your hands,” Higgins said.

Connolly replied that “[Democrats] will not be threatened with violence and bloodshed because we want reasonable gun control.”

The hearing comes as Democrats in the House and Senate seek to advance much stricter gun control laws.

At the end of June, a compromise gun bill brokered in the Senate between Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) won enough support to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold, and has since passed the House and been signed into law by President Joe Biden.

While the measure was a victory for gun control proponents and a stinging defeat to Second Amendment advocates, Democrats have little chance of being able to replicate the feat with more wide-reaching firearms legislation.

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that Democrats will in coming weeks consider another gun control bill to ban the sale of “assault weapons,” but that bill has even won some critics among Democrats. In the lower chamber, where Democrats hold only a four-seat majority, Pelosi can scarcely afford to lose a single vote if Republicans are united against the proposal, and the fate of the assault weapons ban remains largely undetermined.

Even if the House were to approve that bill, it’s all but guaranteed to fail in the Senate, where it will likely fail to gain the support of at least 10 Republicans to overcome the filibuster threshold.