Who is the best gun manufacturer

These are the German companies that promote the gun madness in the United States

"I'm addicted to watches, Heckler and Koches" -Jay-Z

April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, opened fire with two semi-automatic pistols on the Virginia Tech campus. The student kills 32 people over the next two hours, then shoots himself in the head. It's the worst rampage the US has ever seen.

June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, 29, walks into Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida armed with a semi-automatic rifle and pistol. He opens fire and kills numerous club visitors, then barricades himself. By the time the police shoot him almost four hours later, he had killed 49 people. It's the worst rampage the US has ever seen.

October 1, 2017: 64-year-old Stephen Paddock holed up with over a dozen self-loading rifles on the 32nd floor of a hotel overlooking the famous Las Vegas Strip. He has modified at least twelve of the rifles so that he can fire them continuously. At five past ten he starts shooting into the audience of an open air country concert below him. In the next hour and fifteen minutes, Paddock shoots 58 people and then himself. It's the worst rampage the US has ever seen.

What these three rampages have in common is not only that they each broke the record for the worst "mass shooting" in the United States. But also that all three perpetrators used at least one German weapon. Cho a semi-automatic Walther P22 and a pistol from the Austrian brand Glock. Omar Mateen's main weapon was a semi-automatic Sig Sauer MCX (and a Glock pistol). And in Stephen Paddock's arsenal there were several rifles built by Sig Sauer. "For American gun junkies, Germany is the number two European dealer," wrote a columnist in 2012 Washington Post - according to Austria. "The American gun culture exists in symbiosis with Europe's own culture of precision manufacturing."

What is easy to overlook in the current outrage about the "gun problem" in the USA: German gun manufacturers earn money from it - and they do a lot to ensure that the gun-loving culture of the states does not change.

The USA is the largest sales market for civil weapons in the world, and it is becoming increasingly important for German arms manufacturers. "If politics forces us that we have practically no more sales in the Middle East, we have to look for alternatives," said Andreas Heeschen, the majority owner of the Swabian arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch worldlast January. And that seems to have worked: According to the US Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency, over 250,000 German firearms were imported into the US in 2015. A year later, the number of exports has almost doubled - to just under half a million.

Also on VICE: The Secret Weapons School

The guns from H&K have a good reputation in the USA: "In this market we are the gun Porsche," declared Heeschen proudly. Heckler & Koch now makes almost 40 percent of its total turnover with sales on the civilian US market, in 2016 that was 80 million euros. That is more than the company earned in the year with the Bundeswehr and all police forces combined. The deal is so worthwhile that H&K now wants to fully embark on production in the USA: In May it was announced that the Swabians are building a pistol factory in Columbus, Georgia, for 23 million euros. The plant will exclusively produce pistols, sport and hunting rifles for the civilian market.

With this, Heckler & Koch is taking a step that the German-Swiss arms manufacturer Sig Sauer took decades ago. SIGARMS, founded in Virginia in 1985, originally operated as an import company, seven years later production began on American soil. Sig Sauer Inc. is now the fifth largest arms manufacturer in the USA, with 1,200 employees building half a million firearms here every year. The US company has long since been separated from the German GmbH, but both companies belong to the German L & O Holding, based in Emsdetten in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Screenshot: Detail from "Tango Down", the YouTube miniseries produced by Sig Sauer

Lobbying for Donald Trump, the industry's "true friend"

In order to keep this large market alive, German companies actively participate in the campaigns of the American pro-gun lobby, including those of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA is considered the most powerful and aggressive lobby group in the United States, and it works for one goal above all: to keep gun laws in the United States as weak as possible. The NRA is responsible for ensuring that there are still no background checks on weapons purchases, even though 90 percent of Americans are in favor. Seung-Hui Cho, the perpetrator of Virginia Tech, would probably not have passed such a check due to his known psychological problems.

With annual sales of $ 430 million, the NRA finances massive PR campaigns, exerts pressure on American MPs and supports the candidates on their way to the White House who are on their side - like Donald Trump. And German companies support them in this.

In April 2011, the NGO Violence Policy Center came across internal NRA documents, including a list of all donors from the arms industry. As the South Germanresearched, the companies of the German L&O Holding (Sig Sauer) made generous donations: Sig Sauer transferred between 25,000 and 49,999 dollars. Blaser USA (also L&O) even donated between 250,000 and 499,999 dollars - and 100 hunting rifles. Sig Sauer is still closely associated with the NRA today: the company advertises a discount program for certified "NRA shooting instructors" on its website. In March they acted as the main sponsor of the "NRA Outdoors Tactical Carbine Class" and provided 32 rifles.

Walther Arms Inc., the import company of the German Carl Walther Sportwaffen founded in 2012 - the manufacturer of James Bond's famous "Walther PPK" is similarly committed. According to research by South German the Walther Arms donated tens of thousands of dollars to the NRA.

Heckler & Koch also maintains good relationships with the NRA; the lobby repeatedly receives small donations in kind from the Germans. The President of H&K in the USA, Wayne Weber, is a member of the NRA. Although the company is keeping a low profile on NRA ties, the company's position in the debate is fairly clear: "Heckler & Koch has long been present in the US civil market and is an ardent and passionate advocate of the Second Amendment as well as the American civilian Protect ", quoted the South Germana Facebook post from the company that can no longer be found.

H&K is more openly involved in the NSSF, the trade association for firearms manufacturers, of which the company is a voting (and paying) member. Although the NSSF is more moderate than the NRA, it has the same goals. In 2016, the association started the #GUNVOTE initiative to mobilize as many gun owners as possible to vote for the more gun-friendly candidate. Sig Sauer, also a member, supported the initiative with $ 100,000.

It was clear early on who the right candidate was: At the NRA annual congress in March 2016, only Donald Trump spoke, not his opponent. "Hillary Clinton wants to take your guns away from you," he shouted, and, "I love guns!" The NRA returned the love and supported Trump's election campaign with $ 30 million. The manufacturers had set up their stands in the exhibition hall next to it. Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, Walther Arms and Blaser were also there.

The Las Vegas massacre is also unlikely to change anything fundamentally about gun laws in the United States. Donald Trump has spoken out in favor of banning so-called "bump stocks" - attachments that make it possible to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one for little money. The parts are more of a niche phenomenon that hardly anyone has bought and from which the big companies do not make any money. The NRA strictly rejects any further tightening of the gun laws, as it has already announced. This is good news for German companies.

Incidentally, on October 2nd, one day after the Vegas massacre, the Heckler & Koch Facebook page posted the following Facebook video:

Follow VICE on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Get the best of VICE emailed to you every week!

By subscribing to the VICE newsletter, you consent to receiving electronic communications from VICE, which may contain advertising or sponsored content.