WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Top executives at United States gunmakers testified on Wednesday (July 27) that criminals, not their products, were responsible for mass shootings, as they faced questions from a US House committee investigating recent massacres in Texas and New York.
The chief executives of Sturm, Ruger & Co and Daniel Defense testified at one of a series of hearings being held by the House of Representatives' Oversight Committee following mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Highland Park, Illinois.
The shootings just 10 days apart in May at an Uvalde elementary school and a Buffalo supermarket, along with the Fourth of July rampage at a parade in Highland Park, claimed 38 lives in all - and reignited a decades-long debate over firearms ownership.
"The gun industry has flooded our neighbourhoods, our schools, even our churches and schools, and gotten rich doing it," committee chairman Carolyn Maloney said in her opening statement on Wednesday.
She highlighted the committee's report, which found that five major gun manufacturers have made more than US$1 billion (S$1.39 billion) from the sale of assault-style rifles in the past decade.
Mr Marty Daniel, the chief executive of Daniel Defense defended his company and the firearms industry, saying that the semi-automatic assault-style weapons sold today are "substantially the same as those manufactured 100 years ago".
"Our nation's response needs to focus not on the type of gun but on the type of person likely to commit mass shootings," he said in his opening statement.
A semi-automatic rifle made by Daniel Defense was one of the weapons used in the Uvalde shooting.
Mr Christopher Killoy, president and CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co echoed Mr Daniel.
"A firearm, any firearm, can be used for good or evil. The difference is in the intent of the individual possessing it," Mr Killoy told committee members.
Mr Mark Smith, president and CEO of Smith & Wesson Brands, had been invited and had initially committed to attend but then changed his mind, Ms Maloney said.
Ms Maloney said she intends to subpoena Smith and other executives at Smith & Wesson to "finally get answers about why this company is selling assault weapons to mass murderers".
A Smith & Wesson rifle was used in the Highland Park killings, while Bushmaster Firearms International made the weapon used in Buffalo.
The committee sought responses from each of the executives following the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings.