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ON THE DEFENSIVE

Everything we know about Daniel Defense, which manufactured the gun used in Uvalde

A man holds up a gun next to a large billboard of a Daniel Defense ad at a prior NRA convention.
Reuters/John Sommers II
Daniel Defense
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The AR-15-style weapon that a teenage shooter used to kill 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week was purchased from a company called Daniel Defense, based in Georgia.

One of the largest private manufacturers of guns in the US, its goods are easily procured online with a few clicks as Quartz recently tried out for itself.

Here’s what else you need to know about the company:

It sent “thoughts and prayers” to Uvalde victims’ families

The company put up a statement on its website that addressed the shooting saying it was “deeply saddened by the tragic events in Texas this week.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community devastated by this evil act,” it read. The company also added that it was cooperating with law enforcement officials in the investigation.

Because of increased public scrutiny, it pulled out of the annual NRA show which opened Friday, stating that “we believe this week is not the appropriate time to be promoting our products in Texas.”

It also made the weapons used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting

This is not the first time that Daniel Defense weapons were used in a mass shooting. The Las Vegas gunman who fired on a music festival in 2018 killing 58 people had bought four semi-automatic rifles made by the company.

Founded in 2000 by former garage door salesman Marty Daniel, the firm produced about 52,000 firearms in 2020, a big jump from the 32,000 in 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Daniel told Forbes in a 2017 interview that the company grossed $73 million in sales the year before.

Gun company stocks usually rise in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting event as people, worried about a crackdown on gun ownership, rush to buy more products. Although Daniel Defense is private, its owner said that it, too, has seen sales rise after mass shootings, including the one in Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

It’s a well-funded Republican donor

Daniel said in the same Forbes interview that he supported Trump “100% “in the 2016 election, praising the former president for his stance on gun ownership. Trump also happens to be giving the keynote speech on Friday evening at this year’s NRA convention.

This year, the owners of the company donated more than $70,000 directly to GOP candidates for federal office this election cycle, according to the Washington Post. Last year, the company itself gave $100,000 last year to a PAC backing incumbent Republican senators.

It recently used a toddler in its gun ads

A week before the shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, the company posted an ad featuring a toddler holding a gun. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” it published to Twitter on May 16, the same day the Robb Elementary shooter turned 18. It was a reference to a Bible verse.

Screenshot
The deleted Daniel Defense post.

The company has since taken down the tweet after a backlash, but gun companies have increasingly targeted young children, especially boys. Previous Defense Daniel social media posts show it has also funded high school shooting clubs.

It’s a prolific poster in social media

Daniel Defense’s marketing suggests it’s trying to reach a mainstream audience. In 2014, it submitted a minute-long spot for the Super Bowl but was rejected because of the NFL’s rules against advertisements for “firearms, ammunition or other weapons.” It posted the ad to its own website, calling it the “greatest Super Bowl ad that never was.”

Earlier this month, to mark Cinco de Mayo, it posted a video of a man shooting a piñata, which it matched to the lively beat of a mambo. For Christmas, it gift-wrapped guns and bullets in festive paper, while its 2016 Valentine’s Day post showed an illustration of a shooter spraying out a string of hearts instead of bullets.

Some of its regularly deployed hashtags are #pewpew #gunporn #gunsofinstagram and #ootd or “outfit of the day”, asking its followers to post pictures of their gun paired with their outfit. 

It’s also quick to latch onto the cultural zeitgeist, including with a references to the hit Netflix show Squid Games. A few years back, the company promoted a photo of the singer Post Malone holding a gun, too.

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