Tom Diaz

American activist

Tom Diaz is an American writer, lawyer, and public speaker on the gun industry and gun control issues. He was formerly senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center and is one of the more prominent advocates for gun control in the United States of America.




  • The gun industry has deliberately enhanced its profits by increasing the lethality -- the killing power -- of its products...The industry might have chosen to develop safer firearms, but gun-industry executives deliberately chose to take exactly the opposite direction.
    • Diaz, Tom (1999). Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America. The New Press. ISBN 9781565844704. ; Butterfield, Fox (February 14, 1999). "To Rejuvenate Gun Sales, Critics Say, Industry Started Making More Powerful Pistols". The New York Times. 
  • It's an area of writing that is superbly uncritical. It's hypermarketing, and Guns & Ammo is the 500-pound canary.
  • The smart gun is a hoax. It's a very seductive hoax, but nevertheless it's a hoax. At bottom, this is a ploy, a very clever ploy, by the gun industry to use your tax dollars and my tax dollars to expand its markets. You'll never be able to come up with a system that's going to make handguns safe, to make handguns go away, until we say, 'We've got an industry that pours onto our markets millions of deadly, lethal killing instruments. And we've got to stop that.' I feel that the smart gun ultimately will take more lives…than it will save.
  • My book argues that the gun industry is purposely making guns sexier in terms of their killing power in order to rejuvenate the market. What I'm saying now is that in terms of our country, and in our times, there are guns out there whose harm far outweighs their utility. And I want somebody in government to say: 'Don't make them. Don't have them.'
    • On his book Making a Killing (Frey, Jennifer (May 4, 1999). "Tom Diaz Loved Guns. But a Lot of Little Reasons Changed His Mind". The Washington Post. ).


  • The gun industry offloads tremendous costs onto people who don't use its products, like a polluter dumping on a city, so it's good to force people to realize what these costs are.
    • Butterfield, Fox (September 15, 2000). "2 Economists Give Far Higher Cost of Gun Violence". The New York Times. 


  • Given the development of a whole sniper culture over the past 10 years, it was almost inevitable that some deranged person or a terrorist was going to be drawn in to acting out the sniper mentality. The sniper's motto is, 'One shot, one kill.' That's what this guy has been doing right here around our nation's capital...In order to rejuvenate its sales, the gun industry has gone out and marketed sniper rifles.


  • This is not just a gun control issue. It's a national security issue.
    • On .50 caliber rifles (Wald, Matthew L. (January 31, 2003). "Citing Danger to Planes, Group Seeks Ban on a Sniper Rifle". The New York Times. ).
  • Okay, so you're an hour outside New York City in Danbury. What does that mean? Do you think an army of terrorists is going to come rampaging out of New York? There are some suburban and rural communities where fair-minded analysis would say this is ludicrous. The likelihood that these kinds of incidents are likely to occur is nil...Most rounds miss the target. That's an established fact. More bullets are going to fly where they weren't intended, and they're going to go farther and strike with a greater impact. S.W.A.T. and sniper teams are highly trained and selective enough to use these weapons. But if I were putting them in every patrol car in the jurisdiction, I would be very concerned about the amount of firepower.


  • These are ideal weapons of terrorist attack.
  • This gun is designed and built to smash things up and to set things on fire. It`s a battlefield weapon, and yet it is sold as freely on the American civilian market as a .22 bolt action rifle...I think it`s a great thing on the battlefield. I just think that there are certain occasions when we say in our society, this product is such a threat to our health and safety, and in this case, our national security, we will not allow is a gun that is unparalleled by any other small arm available to civilians. We control every other kind of weapon of war you can think of -- machine guns, plastic explosives, rockets. This thing has flown under the radar for about 20 years...If you go through virtually any industrial state, you`ll see right off the highways all kinds of highly-toxic and/or flammable materials stored in big tanks. These are ideal targets...The point is that you can plan your attack from a longer distance. It`s the combination of range and power.




  • It's clear that the militarized stuff is the stuff that sells and is defining the industry.
    • On the growth of the civilian market for military-style weapons (Singer, Natasha (November 27, 2011). "The Big Shot". The New York Times. Retrieved on October 6, 2018. ).


  • The Bushmaster a variant of a type of gun called the AR-15 ... which was designed and developed for military use roughly during the Vietnam War period. It is one of a variety of assault rifles that militaries of the world developed when they realized that most soldiers do not — when they're engaged in combat — do not take accurate aim, do not fire at long distances, but rather just spray bullets in the general direction of the enemy at short to medium range. When the military accepted this as a fact — that soldiers are not marksmen, and they tend to just fire in bursts at ambiguous targets, and in fact most battlefield injuries are the result of just being where the bullet is and not someone actually aiming at you — the militaries of the world said, 'OK, we need a type of gun to give our soldiers that will do just that.' ... This was the genesis of the assault rifle. The first one was developed by the Germans in 1944. It was called the StG-44. The Soviet army quickly ... made a design similar to it, which is called the AK-47, probably the most widely used rifle in the world.
  • What the gun industry has done is sort of appeal to the inner soldier, the insurrectionist feelings and high-tech desires to market these military-style guns. Now, they don't call them assault rifles. They have a couple of terms they use. They call them tactical rifles. They call them modern sporting rifles. I personally don't care what you call them; they are basically assault rifles, and their purpose is to kill people.


  • The AR-15 is, essentially, a gun that was designed to inflict maximum casualties, death, and injury, in close to medium range. That's what it does. The real problem is that we allow that kind of firepower to come into a theater or into a first-grade class. The names you see now are 'modern sporting rifle,' 'tactical rifle.' Those are all just euphemisms for 'assault weapon.' They're being very rational as marketers and as businesses—and as industries. They're only doing what cellphone companies do to make cellphones look different and be more attractive. The difference is what they're selling is lethality.
  • It speaks to the fact that there are a lot of young men in the U.S. who will never be in the military but feel that male compulsion to warriorhood. Owning an assault weapon is a passport to that.
  • Those design features in a civilian market have horrific consequences. So you can call it whatever you want — tactical rifle, black rifle, assault rifle, modern sporting rifle. It has the capability that the military wanted for warfare...It's just a fact that hunting has been in serious decline, so those kinds of guns just don't sell as well. Well, you're in business, you got to sell something. These assault rifles — these military-style rifles — appeal to a broader range of people.
  • The industry has changed. In terms of what sells and what is marketed most successfully, we’re now talking about guns that are derived directly from military design.
  • We have spent more than $1 trillion on homeland security since Sept. 11, 2001, yet have withheld annual funding of less than $3 million for research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on gun violence.
    Why are the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments subject to erosion in the name of homeland security, but the Second Amendment is beyond compromise in the name of saving innocent lives?...
    Our perception of the relative dangers of terrorism and gun violence is distorted....
    If we are to protect the homeland, we must also protect our children and all innocent citizens from the epidemic of violence inflicted by military-style guns.

Quotes about Tom Diaz

  • Instead, the gun was mainly sold to law enforcement and other narrower demographics -- notably, "survivalists" who imagined they would one day face combat situations in an apocalyptic future, according to Tom Diaz, a gun expert and author of "Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America."
  • The Orlando massacre and the San Bernardino, California shooting in December by a couple inspired by Islamic State captured the attention of the American public in a way previous mass shootings have not, said Tom Diaz, a former member of the National Rifle Association gun rights lobby who now backs gun control.
    “They’ve changed the dynamic of this whole issue,” said Diaz, an author and expert on terrorism and the gun industry.
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