Across the U.S., capitalist politicians, including President Joe Biden, spew endless verbiage about the need to control assault weapons, yet do little to make this happen. Meanwhile the parents of one of the children killed and a school staffer in Uvalde, Texas, have started legal actions against Daniel Defense, the gunmaker which produced the AR-15 assault weapon used to slaughter 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.
The potential plaintiffs include speech pathology clerk Emilia “Amy” Marin, Alfred Garza III, father of Amerie Jo Garza, the 10-year-old who called 911 from inside her classroom before she was shot, and her mother Kimberly Garcia. Alfred Garza, in a letter sent to Daniel Defense through attorneys, stated: “My purpose for being now is to honor Amerie Jo’s memory. She would want me to do everything I can so this will never happen again to any other child. I have to fight her fight.”
In court documents filed June 2 in the Texas 38th Judicial District, Marin petitioned to force company officials to sit for a deposition and to produce materials related to the gunmaker’s website, profits, lobbying, sales and marketing of AR-15-style rifles. The filings question Daniel Defense’s marketing to young people, who reasonably should not own assault weapons.
Garza is being represented by attorney Josh Koskoff, who earlier this year won a $73 million settlement against Remington for nine families of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting victims, and Texas-based attorneys Mikal Watts and Charla Aldous.
The potential lawsuits face an uphill battle. In October 2005, the U.S. Congress under President George W. Bush, and with considerable Democratic support, passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act aimed at ending lawsuits by individuals and municipalities to hold gun manufacturers and dealers liable for negligence when their weapons are used in crimes. Thirty-three states have since adopted similar laws.
In their successful lawsuit against Remington, Sandy Hook parents focused on how the maker of the weapon used in that attack advertised its weapons and appealed to people who were at high risk of criminal misuse of the gun.
Daniel Defense: reputation for pushing boundaries
Founded by owner Marty Daniel in 2000, the Georgia-based company Daniel Defense enjoys revenues ranging from $10 million to $50 million annually. Daniel got his break at a gun show in Orlando, Florida, in 2002, when he was approached by a U.S. Special Forces’ representative and won a $20 million contract to produce military combat rifle accessories. (N.Y. Times, 5/28)
Since 2008, Daniel Defense has received over 100 Pentagon contracts totaling over $13 million. On March 23, 2022, the company was awarded an additional $9.1 million Pentagon contract to produce improved barrels for use in their weapons.
The N.Y. Times’ article notes that before 2000, “gun makers did not market military-style assault weapons to civilians.” At trade shows, these guns were cordoned off from the general public. “That started to change around 2004, industry experts say, with the expiration of the federal assault weapon ban.”
Starting in 2009, Daniel Defense began marketing military style assault weapons to consumers, featuring heavily armed fighters with the message: “Use what they use.” Other ads had references to “Call of Duty” video games or featured “Star Wars” characters, likely to appeal to teenagers.
Some ads pictured children carrying and firing guns.
On the day the Uvalde shooter turned 18, Daniel Defense posted a photo showing a small boy with an assault weapon across his lap and the caption: “Train up a child in the way he should go. When he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Daniel Defense made purchasing an AR-15 assault weapon easy. Customers can buy the $1,800 AR-15 on an installment plan, making the expensive weapon more affordable. Salvador Ramos, identified as the shooter in Uvalde, had just turned 18 and was able to legally purchase an AR-15 from Daniel Defense online.
After initially posting a statement sending thoughts and prayers to Uvalde, the company next posted a promotion for a sweepstakes to win $15,000 worth of guns or ammunition.
Since 2000, assault weapons intended for war, manufactured by Bushmaster, Daniel Defense, Smith & Wesson Brands, Sig Sauer and Ruger, have flooded the domestic market, where they have been used to carry out multiple horrific civilian attacks. Collectively these companies are responsible for producing over 15 million weapons currently in circulation.
Damage from a military assault weapon
Following the Uvalde massacre, authorities asked parents of the children killed at Robb Elementary School to provide DNA samples. All too few major corporate media outlets bothered to question why.
Bullets from weapons that fire one round at a time pass through a human body in a straight line and exit intact. Damage is not always fatal.
Daniel Defense’s AR-15 is a combat weapon. Rounds fired by this gun travel at three times the speed of sound. Bullets fired from an AR-15 explode into pieces, creating massive internal injuries. Upon impact they smash and shred the bones and organs of their victims into unrecognizable pulp. A shot to the head or face makes physical identification nearly impossible — as was the case for the murdered children in Uvalde. There was nothing left to identify.
The beautiful pictures of the victims — the 9- to 11-year-old children and their teachers affixed to crosses outside their school — only served to hide the horrific damage these legalized assault weapons can cause. How much greater would public outrage be, if people were shown the actual damage?
The National Rifle Association’s mantra is that “guns don’t kill, people do.” It conveniently ignores the reality that assault weapons not only kill — they pulverize their victims. Even the Uvalde police, criticized for failing to act to save the children, understood the power of these weapons.
Biden and Democratic Party hypocrisy
President Biden interrupted national TV stations May 30 to ask: “When as a nation will we stand up to the gun lobby?” The very next day he called for the U.S. to send more rockets to Ukraine — an unmistakable boost for weapons manufacturers.
The manufacturers of guns for domestic use and weapons for wars abroad are essentially the same industry. His administration’s $9.1 million contract with Daniel Defense in March to produce weapons parts for the Pentagon is solid proof of this.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields companies like Daniel Defense from liability, was passed in 2005 with considerable support from Democrats, who still choose to focus on monitoring consumers instead of restricting the weapons manufacturers who profit from producing assault weapons.
While it is unlikely that Biden could get Republican senators, let alone his own party, to pass significant gun control measures, he could reverse an action by his predecessor Donald Trump that benefitted global arms producers.
In May 2019, Trump “unsigned” the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which the U.S. signed in 2013 but never ratified. This treaty, strongly opposed by the NRA, was considered the most comprehensive effort towards international gun control. Biden could return the U.S. to this treaty through an executive act which would not require Congressional approval. He has yet to do so.
The U.S. manufactures and sells more weapons than any other country. This trajectory can be traced back to U.S. settler colonialism and the organizing of European settlers into militias to attack Indigenous people. The Second Amendment protection of the “right to bear arms” goes back to this white-supremacist origin.
Workers World Party supports the right of workers and oppressed people to arm themselves in self defense against attacks from the capitalist state and its racist, white-supremacist, neofascist armed thugs. But we strongly oppose the production of assault weapons that are used by the military, police and white supremacists’ forces against the working class and oppressed people in the U.S. and globally.