The clear division between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of gun control became dramatically evident during a Wednesday hearing by the House Oversight Committee on the sale of semiautomatic rifles—so-called “assault weapons” which is a term the Associated Press recently advised against using in reports about semi-auto firearms.
The hearing, chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), was contentious from the outset. Even before it began, her office released a statement that essentially set a hostile tone toward gun manufacturers.
“How much are the lives of America’s children, teachers, parents, and families worth to gun manufacturers? My Committee’s investigation has revealed that the country’s major gun manufacturers have collected more than $1 billion in revenue from selling military-style assault weapons to civilians. These companies are selling the weapon of choice for mass murderers who terrorize young children at school, hunt down worshippers at churches and synagogues, and slaughter families on the Fourth of July. In short, the gun industry is profiting off the blood of innocent Americans.
“My Committee,” Maloney’s statement continued, “has found that the business practices of these gun manufacturers are deeply disturbing, exploitative, and reckless. These companies use aggressive marketing tactics to target young people—especially young men—and some even evoke symbols of white supremacy. Yet we found that none of these companies bothers to keep track of the death and destruction caused by their products.
“Today,” the statement added, “my Committee will hear testimony from CEOs of two gun manufacturers, and I look forward to these executives answering for their actions. I hope my Committee’s findings and hearing serve as a call to action ahead of this week’s historic House vote to ban assault weapons and end the outrageous liability shield enjoyed by gun manufacturers. I will continue to push for accountability for the out-of-control gun industry so we can end America’s gun violence epidemic.”
Testifying about manufacturing and advertising practices were Chris Killoy, CEO at Sturm, Ruger and Marty Daniel at Daniel Defense.
Maloney challenged both men to “apologize to the families of Uvalde” and specifically to Daniel, “accept your company’s role” in the Uvalde tragedy.
At one point, Congressman Andrew Clyde (R-GA) expressed chagrin to his colleagues about the use of the term “gun violence.”
“So we’re here today,” he stated, “because Democrats want to somehow blame gun manufacturers for violent crime, while Democrats did not see fit to drag auto manufacturers before this committee to blame the Waukesha Christmas parade massacre citing ‘car violence’ or ‘SU Vehicle violence’ for the murder of six people and the injury of 62 others in a violent criminal act.
Democrats have coined the term ‘gun violence,’ and determined that guns, which are inanimate objects and unable to commit any crime or act of violence should be banned. I take issue with that term, as I have never known a gun to be violent. I’ve known people to be violent, but never an inanimate object like a firearm. I’ve owned thousands of guns in my lifetime and have never met, owned or handled a violent gun.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) insisted—as did her colleagues—that modern semi-auto sporting rifled are “weapons of war.” She criticized the firearms industry for trying to promote gun ownership among children.
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) mentioned her religious upbringing and challenged anyone in the firearms community to show her in the Bible where it says people have a right to own a gun.
In an exchange with Ryan Busse, former firearms industry executive now advocating for tighter gun regulations, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) noted that laws regulating so-called “assault weapons” vary from state to state.
“Maybe, just maybe,” Fallon observed, “we can’t even seem to define what an ‘assault weapon’ is.”
Fallon then asked Busse about his reference to some firearms as “weapons of war.”
“When you were a firearms executive,” Fallon queried, “did you market the Browning 1911?”
“I marketed and sold 1911-style pistols, yes sir,” Busse replied.
“So 1911s were the firearm of the United States military from World War I to Vietnam, over 50 years” Fallon pressed.
“They were the defensive handgun of choice for most military operations,” Busse confirmed.
“They were a weapon of war,” Fallon interjected. “See, what I find offensive by that term is, and my colleague just said it as well, is, I own an AR-15, and it’s not a weapon of war, and I don’t want to hurt anybody. It is a defensive weapon. It is a tool, to allow me to protect my property, but far more importantly, my family. My children, and my wife. And I’m not giving it up, no matter what. And some of these laws we’re talking about, no matter if they’re grandfathered or not, are going to make good law-abiding citizens criminals.”
At another point, Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH) declared, “We should just cut to the chase. The Democrats’ beef is with the Second Amendment. They don’t like the Second Amendment. They want to get rid of the Second Amendment but they can’t because in the Constitution, the American people like the fact that we have the right to keep and bear arms to protect ourselves, our family, our property. They like that fact, and it’s a cumbersome process to amend and change the Constitution so they can’t do that. So they’re gonna say ‘We’re gonna ban a certain type of weapon, let’s call them ‘assault weapons,’ or they’re gonna come after gun manufacturers and try to sue them…That’s their course of action. Their beef is with the Second Amendment. They can’t change that, so they’re gonna go around it.”
The hearing wrapped up with essentially no change in anyone’s position. Democrats want to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, thus re-opening up the firearms industry to junk lawsuits, while Republicans were steadfastly opposed to a ban on semi-auto rifles, instead insisting that other factors are to blame for a rise in violent crime.