Vehicles are parked outside the U.S. Capitol building the morning the Senate returned to session in Washington, DC, U.S., July 31, 2021.
Vehicles are parked outside the U.S. Capitol building the morning the Senate returned to session in Washington, DC, U.S., July 31, 2021. Reuters / ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Democrats on a U.S. House committee pressed the top executives of two U.S. gunmakers on Wednesday about their marketing of assault-style rifles that have been used in recent mass shootings, while the executives defended their business.

The chief executives of Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc and Daniel Defense Llc, testified at a hearing of the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee after recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.

The shootings just 10 days apart in May at a Uvalde elementary school and a Buffalo supermarket - as well as a Fourth of July rampage at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois - claimed 38 lives in all, stirring a decades-long debate over gun rights.

"The gun industry has flooded our neighborhoods, our schools, even our churches and synagogues, and gotten rich doing it," Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat, said in her opening statement.

A report released by the committee showed that five major gun manufacturers have generated over $1 billion in revenue from the sale of assault-style rifles in the past decade.

Democrats have long sought to impose controls on guns in hopes of reducing the toll from shootings, efforts that are opposed by Republicans and others who cite the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

Congress last month passed its first new gun safety legislation in decades, a day after the Supreme Court broadly expanded gun rights by ruling Americans have a constitutional right to carry handguns in public.

Marty Daniel, CEO of Daniel Defense, and Christopher Killoy, president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co, defended the firearms industry. An assault-style rifle made by Daniel Defense was one of the weapons used in the Uvalde shooting.

Killoy told committee members, "A firearm, any firearm, can be used for good or evil. The difference is in the intent of the individual possessing it."

Democratic committee members pressed Daniel and Killoy on their companies' marketing strategies, which often feature imagery suggesting the weapons sold to civilians are comparable to those used by the U.S. military.

"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," Representative Rashida Tlaib said.

Republicans argued the hearings should focus on whether Democrats were responsible for increased levels of violent crime in the United States.

Families of the victims of gun violence were also present at the hearing.

Jazmin Cazares, 17, the older sister of Jackie Cazares, who was killed in the Uvalde shooting, gave an obituary of her sister to Republican Representative Andrew Clyde, who opposes gun control legislation.

"I said (to him) I pray his kids and grandkids never have to look down the barrel of a gun like my little sister did," she said in an interview.

Mark Smith, president and CEO of Smith & Wesson Brands Inc, had been invited and had initially committed to attend but then changed his mind, committee Chairwoman Maloney said.

Maloney said she intends to subpoena Smith and other executives at the company.

Smith & Wesson did not respond to attempts to obtain comment.