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Smith & Wesson CEO faces backlash after he blamed politicians for gun violence

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Convention goers have a look at weapons on the Smith and Wesson booth last April on the 2015 NRA Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Karen Bleier | AFP | Getty Images

After releasing a statement earlier this week blaming politicians for the surge in gun violence, Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith is facing latest backlash weeks after he refused to testify at a House hearing alongside fellow top executives of other weapons makers.

Smith on Monday said his company “won’t ever back down in our defense of the Second Amendment” and in addition accused politicians and the news media for the surge in gun violence happening across the country. The National Rifle Association, the nation’s leading pro-gun group, posted the statement in full on its website.

“Numerous politicians and their lobbying partners within the media have recently sought to disparage Smith & Wesson,” Smith wrote.

Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., pushed back on his remarks in a press release to CNBC on Wednesday, accusing him of searching for to guard the corporate’s profits.

“The CEO of Smith & Wesson refused to testify before my Committee and face the families who’ve lost a loved one due to his company’s weapons of war,” Maloney said. “The Committee is not going to permit Smith & Wesson to dodge accountability or obscure the gun industry’s role in fueling our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”

The Oversight Committee has been investigating America’s firearm industry. In response to the panel, major gun manufacturers including Smith & Wesson have remodeled $1 billion within the last decade selling military-style weapons through allegedly manipulative marketing practices.

“Highland Park, Parkland, San Bernardino, Aurora — these mass murders were all committed with Smith & Wesson assault weapons,” Maloney said. “Because the world watches the families of Parkland victims relive their trauma through the shooter’s trial, it’s unconscionable that Smith & Wesson continues to be refusing to take responsibility for selling the assault weapons used to massacre Americans.”

Kyle Rittenhouse also used a Smith & Wesson rifle to kill two people and injured a 3rd during a 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts related to the shootings.

The nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety also criticized Smith’s statement.

“Smith & Wesson’s bombastic statement — and their CEO ducking a Congressional hearing — tells me that they are scared,” said Everytown for Gun Safety executive Nick Suplina.

CNBC reached out to Smith & Wesson for further comment.

In July, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing with the CEOs of major gun manufacturers Sturm, Ruger & Company and Daniel Defense. They defended their businesses, arguing that the main target ought to be on shooters and mental health reform. Smith was set to also appear on the hearing but withdrew just five days prior, in line with committee documents.

The committee has issued a subpoena to Smith & Wesson for documents related to its manufacturing and sale of AR-15- style firearms.

Smith, in his statement Monday, said politicians have “vilified, undermined and defunded law enforcement for years, supported prosecutors who refuse to carry criminals accountable for his or her actions, overseen the decay of our country’s mental health infrastructure, and customarily promoted a culture of lawlessness, Smith & Wesson and other firearm manufacturers are someway chargeable for the crime wave that has predictably resulted from these destructive policies.”

He didn’t name any politicians.

Everytown for Gun Safety participated in a 2020 grievance made against Smith & Wesson to the Federal Trade Commission. The group accused the corporate of employing unfair and deceptive practices to market the rifles to young, male consumers.

“For a lot too long, they have been allowed to shirk any responsibility for his or her role in our nation’s gun violence epidemic and the atrocities which were perpetrated with their products. As a substitute, they’ve done every thing they’ll to sell more guns to more people, consequences be damned. However the American people have had enough,” Suplina said.

Smith & Wesson is ready to release its next quarterly earnings report Sept. 7. Its stock is down greater than 13% up to now this yr.

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