Letter: Daniel Defense Dangerously Markets its Assault Weapons to Susceptible Teens and Young Men
Everytown, Along with Brady and Fred Guttenberg, has Called on FTC to Similarly Investigate Smith & Wesson’s Marketing Practices
Washington – Everytown Law, the largest group of gun violence prevention litigators in the country, released a complaint today calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Daniel Defense’s advertising and promotion of its assault weapons, particularly to young men. In May, an 18-year-old used a Daniel Defense assault weapon to shoot and kill 19 children and two teachers, and injure 17 children, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Everytown Law has a number of active cases on behalf of survivors against gun industry defendants based on their sales and marketing practices, including a Texas case against LuckyGunner, an online ammunition seller that is alleged to have supplied ammunition to the underage shooter who used it to carry out the 2018 Santa Fe High School mass shooting. Most recently, a case brought by Everytown Law on behalf of a high school shooting survivor against a ghost gun seller was cleared for trial.
“As we’re seeing more and more across the country, making guns no longer gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card for dangerous business practices – like the ones Daniel Defense employs, as alleged by our complaint,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We can’t allow gun manufacturers to market assault rifles to teens, rile them up with militaristic imaging, and then play innocent when those teens carry out massacres. It’s time for the FTC to step up to the plate and hold the gun industry to the same rules that every other company plays by.”
“As our complaint outlines, there is strong evidence that Daniel Defense’s marketing practices are dangerous and violate the FTC Act, and the need to stop those practices is urgent,” said Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director of Everytown Law. “The FTC must intervene before Daniel Defense’s marketing practices contribute to future gun violence.”
The complaint presents evidence that Daniel Defense is using violent and militaristic imagery, unfairly implying that civilians can use their weapons for offensive combat-like missions, and appealing particularly to the thrill-seeking and impulsive tendencies of susceptible teens and young men who are attracted to violence and military fantasies. For example:
- Daniel Defense’s marketing frequently depicts military and law enforcement operations and gear. One ad features sweeping shots of a dramatic helicopter arrival, professional stunt work, an American flag patch on an actor portraying a soldier’s arm, and suspense-building soundtrack; another post features an image of soldiers and fatigues urging consumers to “use what they use,” all in the name of promoting Daniel Defense’s rifles as military-grade weapons available to civilians.
- Daniel Defense also publishes content referencing pop culture characters and themes, in an apparent attempt to attract younger audiences who it can then expose to militaristic marketing. One social media post from 2021 features a person dressed up as a murderous guard from the Netflix show Squid Game (in which the guards use guns to execute game players), holding a Daniel Defense MK18 rifle, with the caption: “#SquidGame would have been better if they used MK18s.”
- Daniel Defense also publishes social media content that references the Call of Duty video game franchise. That content appears to be aimed at appealing to young consumers, some of whom are perversely excited by and attracted to reenacting the video game experience in real life. First-person shooter video games like Call of Duty are popular among teenagers and young adults, including the Uvalde, Highland Park, Parkland, and El Paso mass shooters.
In 2020 and 2021, Everytown, Brady, and Fred Guttenberg issued and reissued calls for the FTC to investigate Smith & Wesson’s advertising and promotion of its M&P line of assault rifles, citing substantial evidence the company uses unfair and deceptive practices to market the rifles to young, male consumers — a demographic that includes a disproportionate number of the shooters in the 10 most destructive mass shootings of the past decade. The 21-year-old man accused of perpetrating the July 4, 2022, mass shooting in Highland Park, IL, is alleged to have done so with a Smith & Wesson M&P rifle. Other young mass shooters who have used Smith & Wesson’s M&P rifle include the Parkland shooter, and the Aurora, Colorado shooter. In addition, Kyle Rittenhouse used a Smith & Wesson M&P assault rifle to kill two people and injure a third people during a protest for racial justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin.