A gun shop owner in Bridgeton, Mo., shows a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle at his store. Smith & Wesson rifles have been used in several deadly mass shooting attacks. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The chief executive of Smith & Wesson, one of America's most famous manufacturers of firearms, is facing backlash after defiantly arguing this week that lawmakers and news media are the ones responsible for rising gun violence in the United States.
CEO Mark Smith made the accusation in a statement early this week, which seeks to blame media outlets and politicians for mass-murder attacks in which Smith & Wesson firearms have often been the chief instrument used to carry out those bloody assaults.
"They are the ones to blame for the surge in violence and lawlessness," he said in the statement. "And they seek to avoid any responsibility for the crisis of violence they have created by attempting to shift the blame to Smith & Wesson, other firearm manufacturers and law-abiding gun owners."
Smith's statement was centered around what he said has been an "unprecedented and unjustified attack on the firearm industry."
In June, a bipartisan bill passed Congress and was signed by President Joe Biden that strengthened firearm requirements in the wake of several high-profile mass shooting attacks -- including the assault on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It was Congress' first significant action on gun safety in decades.
Several days later, police said Robert Crimo used a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle to shoot at families near Chicago during a Fourth of July parade. Seven people were killed.
"We will never back down in our defense of the 2nd Amendment," Smith concluded, adding a post-script that said, "Smith & Wesson -- EMPOWERING AMERICANS."
A variety of abandoned items are seen on a street corner in Highland Park, Ill., on July 4 following a mass shooting attack that killed seven people. Police said the shooter used a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle. File Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., head of the Democrat-majority House oversight committee, ripped Smith's accusations.
"Highland Park, Parkland, San Bernardino, Aurora -- these mass murders were all committed with Smith & Wesson assault weapons," Maloney told CNBC Wednesday.
"As the world watches the families of Parkland victims relive their trauma through the shooter's trial, it is unconscionable that Smith & Wesson is still refusing to take responsibility for selling the assault weapons used to massacre Americans."
Maloney and other critics have denounced the firearms used in mass shootings as "weapons of war" and assailed manufacturers for the way they market them to the American public. The marketing strategies have been denounced as being unfair, deceptive and overly geared toward younger male buyers.
The oversight committee has been investigating the firearms industry and held a hearing last month to question some of the executives in charge. Smith was invited to appear and give testimony -- but he didn't.
"The CEO of Smith & Wesson refused to testify before my committee and face the families who have lost a loved one because of his company's weapons of war," Maloney said.
"The committee will not permit Smith & Wesson to dodge accountability or obscure the gun industry's role in fueling our nation's gun violence epidemic."
The House panel has pointed out that Smith & Wesson generated $253 million in revenues in 2021, up from $108 million in 2020.
Smith now faces a congressional subpoena to provide information about the production and sale of his company's assault-style rifles.
"[The] subpoena was made necessary by your unwillingness to voluntarily comply with the committee's investigation, including your refusal to testify about your company's troubling business practices," Maloney said according to CNBC. "And your refusal to voluntarily produce key information about your company's sale of assault weapons to civilians."
A young girl participating in the March Fourth rally to ban assault weapons holds a "Uvalde Strong" sign outside the Senate office buildings at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 13, 2022. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo