After one of its military-style rifles was used in the Texas elementary school shooting on Tuesday, the gun manufacturer Daniel Defense published a pop-up statement on its home page sending “thoughts and prayers” to the community of Uvalde, Texas, and pledging to cooperate with the authorities.
When the pop-up disappeared, a different message took center stage: a promotion, adorned with gold-encased bullets, for a sweepstakes to win $15,000 worth of guns or ammunition.
The Texas shooting, which left 19 schoolchildren and two teachers dead and more than a dozen wounded, has put a national spotlight on Daniel Defense, a family-owned business in Georgia that has emerged as a trailblazer in an aggressive, boundary-pushing style of weapons marketing and sales.
Some of its advertisements invoke popular video games like “Call of Duty” and feature “Star Wars” characters and Santa Claus, messages that are likely to appeal to teenagers. The company was an early adopter of a direct-to-consumer business model that aimed to make buying military gear as simple as ordering from Amazon, enticing customers with “adventure now, pay later” installment plans that make expensive weaponry more affordable.
And the company’s founder and chief executive, Marty Daniel, has fashioned himself as a provocateur who ridicules gun control proposals and uses publicity stunts to drum up sales.
Daniel Defense is at the forefront of an industry that has grown increasingly aggressive in recent years as it tries to expand beyond its aging, mostly white customer base and resists the calls for stronger regulation that seem to intensify after every mass shooting.
“Daniel Defense is basically the poster child of this egregious, aggressive marketing,” said Ryan Busse, a former executive at the gun company Kimber who is now an industry critic. “Marty Daniel burst in the door, a lot louder and more brazen than other gun makers, much like Donald Trump did on the political scene.”
He added, “Through this company, you are telling the story of how the gun industry has become increasingly radicalized.”
Daniel Defense’s strategy seems to have been effective. Its sales have soared, in part because of its successful targeting of young customers like Salvador Ramos, the gunman in Texas. Mr. Ramos, whom the authorities killed on Tuesday, was a “Call of Duty” video game enthusiast and appears to have bought his assault rifle directly from Daniel Defense, less than a week after turning 18.
Mr. Daniel did not respond to emails or calls. Steve Reed, a Daniel Defense spokesman, said in a statement that the company was “deeply saddened” by the Texas shooting.