Texas school shooting: Who are Daniel Defense, the makers of Salvador Ramos’ AR-15?

Firearms manufacturer whose AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was reportedly used in Robb Elementary School massacre pledges to co-operate with law enforcement investigations into atrocity

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 30 May 2022 18:40 BST
Anderson Cooper consoles grieving dad who lost his daughter in the Texas school shooting

US firearms manufacturer Daniel Defense withdrew from a National Rifle Association (NRA) conference in Houston, Texas, after one of its AR-15 semi-automatic rifles was found to have been used by the teen gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in the same state on 24 May.

High school dropout Salvador Ramos, 18, entered the school via an unlocked rear door, barricaded himself inside a packed classroom and shot dead 21 people, most of them children aged nine and 10, over the course of an hour before US Border Patrol agents finally burst in and killed him.

The tragedy, coming just 10 days after another teen shooter killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, has again reignited the gun control debate in the US, although optimism about seeing real change to fiercely-contested American firearms laws is low given the extent of the influence exerted by the NRA and other members of the country’s powerful weapons lobby.

US president Joe Biden visited Uvalde on 29 May to grieve with the community and pledge action as the NRA conference headlined by former president Donald Trump proceeded as planned.

A statement on the Daniel Defense website reads: “We are 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.

“As reported in Governor [Greg] Abbott’s press conference, it is our understanding that the firearm used in the attack was manufactured by Daniel Defense. We will cooperate with all federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities in their investigations.

“We will keep the families of the victims and the entire Uvalde community in our thoughts and our prayers.”

It has also since emerged that the same firm had posted an advertisement just eight days before the killings using a toddler to promote a similar weapon to that used by Ramos.

The 16 May promotion, accompanying a picture of a baby holding a gun, reads: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Screenshots of the advertisement have since been circulated on social media, provoking widespread outrage against the company, which appears to have responded by making its Twitter account private so that only approved followers can see its posts.

Another controversial recent advert for the specific model reportedly used by Ramos – the DDM4 V7, which retails for approximately $2,000 (£1,582) – appeared on Facebook and shows the rifle leaning against a refrigerator and is captioned, “Let’s normalise kitchen Daniels. What Daniel do you use to protect your family and home?”

The atrocity in Uvalde is not the first time that the company’s weapons have been used in a mass shooting.

Stephen Paddock, the lone gunman who opened fire on concert goers attending the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas in October 2017, killing 60 people and injuring more than 500 others, was also found to have four Daniel Defense automatic rifles among the arsenal stashed in his Mandalay Bay hotel room.

Founded by Marty Daniel in Savannah, Georgia, in 2000, the company has grown quickly and now has its headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Black Creek in the Peach State as well as a second base in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

The company’s owners, husband and wife Marvin and Cindy Daniel, were this week described by The Washington Post as “deep-pocketed Republican donors, giving to candidates and committees at the federal and state level aligned against limits on access to assault rifles and other semi-automatic weapons”.

The newspaper reported that they had donated more than $70,000 (£55,370) directly to Republican candidates for federal office in this election cycle alone, citing a review of filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Their company meanwhile gave $100,000 (£79,128) to a PAC supporting incumbent GOP senators in 2021.

A child leaves flowers at a memorial site for the victims killed in this week's elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas (Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)

Recent beneficiaries of the couple’s donations reportedly include Joni Ernst in Iowa, Tim Scott in South Carolina, John Neely Kennedy in Louisiana and Missouri attorney-general Eric Schmitt.

Much of their cash goes towards supporting candidates in their home state, most recently former NFL star Herschel Walker and Jody Hice, the latter unsuccessfully challenging Donald Trump enemy Brad Raffensperger for secretary of state earlier this week.

"The ability of the industry to use money to advance its policy agenda has increased given the dramatic rise in firearm sales that we’ve seen over the last two or three years,” Timothy D Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University, told The Post.

“The industry is much better equipped to further its lobbying interests, independent of the NRA.”

The New York Times has also been looking into Daniel Defense in response to the Texas massacre and reported that the company received a $3.1m (£2.4m) loan from the US government in April 2020 through the Paycheck Protection Program at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the firm one of 500 gun and ammunition manufacturers to have been received $125m (£99m) from the $800bn (£634bn) relief initiative.

The money was reportedly used by Daniel to support 200 employees during the national shutdown, a period when the company manufactured more guns than usual, according to The NYT, citing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data pointing to a rise in production from 32,00 in 2019 to 51,000 in the year following.

The Independent has contacted Daniel Defense for comment.

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