For Release: Tuesday, February 20,2018
“I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice,” stated Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney
Washington, DC—Smith & Wesson, manufacturer of the M&P15 assault rifle used in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is a top gun industry financial contributor and “corporate partner” of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reported today.
As detailed in the VPC’s 2013 study, Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, at the NRA’s May 2013 annual meeting held in Houston, Texas, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney was inducted into the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom, an honorary society reserved for those who have given a million dollars or more to the organization. Just months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Debney, and other gun industry members, including current NRA President Pete Brownell, CEO of the gun and firearm accessory vendor Brownells, were praised as “selfless, passionate, and devoted leaders” and were awarded yellow sports coats, each with a Golden Ring of Freedom crest on the front pocket (see photo of Debney below).
In an NRA promotional video cited in the VPC report, Debney states, “I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice.” In a 2016 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Smith & Wesson (now known as American Outdoor Brands Corp.) asserted, “The launch of our M&P branded modern sporting rifle [the gun industry’s euphemism for assault rifles] in January 2006 has enabled us to capture what we estimate is the leading share of the modern sporting rifle market.” An M&P15 assault rifle was also used in the mass shootings at a theatre in Aurora, Colorado in 2012 and at a community center in San Bernardino, California in 2015.
A profile of Debney on the NRA’s Ring of Freedom web page (https://www.nraringoffreedom.com/our-members/james-debney/) quotes him as stating, “We looked back at the support we had given the NRA over time and decided, really quite honestly, that it wasn’t enough…It is imperative that we hold fast to the freedoms that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights provide our citizens. Those freedoms cannot and must not be negotiated. So, I think it’s more important than ever that we come together in support of the NRA.” NRA programs supported by Smith & Wesson include the Voice of Freedom program, the NRA Life of Duty program, and the NRA Women’s Network.
Blood Money II revealed that since 2005 and up to the study’s publication in September 2013, contributions from gun industry “corporate partners” to the NRA totaled between $19.3 million and $60.2 million (the range is due to the giving levels defined within the NRA donor program). Included in this figure are eight gun industry “corporate partners” who have, in the NRA’s own words, “given gifts of cash totaling $1,000,000 or more.” Of these eight, five are manufacturers of assault weapons: Beretta USA Corporation; Remington Outdoor Company (formerly Freedom Group) a gun industry conglomerate that manufactures and sells assault weapons under the Remington, Bushmaster Firearms, and DPMS/Panther Arms brands; Smith & Wesson; Springfield Armory; and, Sturm, Ruger & Co. The total amount of financial support to the NRA from the firearms industry to the present day cannot be readily identified, although on the NRA’s website numerous sections are sponsored by gun manufacturers.
VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, “The NRA is a gun industry trade association masquerading as a shooting sports foundation. Today’s NRA does not represent the interests of gun owners, but gun manufacturers, especially manufacturers of assault weapons. The NRA opposes a ban on assault weapons for a simple reason: these are the guns that currently represent a key profit center for firearm manufacturers.”
Click here to see the full text of the 2013 VPC study Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA (http://vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney2.pdf/).
Click here to see Understanding the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Semiautomatic Assault Rifle a backgrounder (http://vpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FloridashootingSmithWesson.pdf) that details the history and profit motive behind Smith & Wesson’s introduction into the civilian market of its M&P15 semiautomatic assault rifles and explains the history, distinguishing features, and lethal capabilities of assault rifles like the M&P15. The backgrounder includes production data for the rifle as well as quotes from Smith & Wesson’s (now known as American Outdoor Brands Corp.) filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.