On Thursday, a group of Democratic senators pushed for more scrutiny, asking the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into the company’s marketing practices.
“The law says you shouldn’t be marketing guns to kids,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
The FTC declined to comment.
The development and marketing of rifles like the JR-15 comes amid a decline in hunting as a hobby, which is how most gun owners were traditionally gifted their first weapon, experts told The Washington Post. These firearms, they say, open up a dangerous pathway for gun companies to place tactical and far more lethal weapons in the hands of children who are still psychologically and physiologically maturing at that age — all in the hopes of cultivating the next generation of American gun owners who will continue to fund the industry.
“This is a dramatic step forward in that not only have [Schmid Tool and WEE1 Tactical] manufactured an assault rifle for children, but they designed the advertising to appeal directly to kids,” Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of the Violence Policy Center, told The Post.
The companies described the JR-15 as “designed with the safety and functionality to assist adults wishing to supervise the introduction of hunting and shooting sports to the next generation of responsible owners,” and said retailers enthusiastically responded to the product after its launch.
It’s unclear how many of these rifles, if any, the companies have sold since its release. Regulations set by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shield gun manufacturers from having to disclose the number of guns produced and sold across the country. Heidi Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the companies, did not respond to an emailed question about the number of JR-15s sold since its launch or to a question about a potential FTC probe.
The JR-15 made its first public appearance last January at the SHOT show in Las Vegas, what some would call the auto show of guns.
Attendees gathered around a corner booth with “JR-15” in big bold letters on a green banner to view the .22 caliber rifle displayed on its walls. Eric Schmid, Schmid Tool’s owner, described the rifle as a “scaled-down AR-15” made of polymer and weighing in at 2.2 pounds. Schmid explained to an attendee that the rifle was a “scaled-down AR-15” and would fit the children well. The Post reached out to Schmid but he did not reply.
The backlash was swift after the launch. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called the JR-15 “vile” in a
. tweetThen-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the gun’s advertising was “sickening” while holding a poster of it for lawmakers on the House floor. Pelosi stated, “Here’s an advertisement for the JR-15. It is supposed to be a smaller, safer, lighter version of the horrendous AR-15 that has been used to kill so many of their playmates.” “Look at these little skulls with ponytails.”
The company took down the JR-15’s website, deleted its initial news release and went into virtual hibernation. The rifle was not mentioned in any detail until it was re-emerged at the SHOT show in Las Vegas with a muted marketing campaign, booth, and website. This happened just days after a 6-year old student pulled out his mother’s pistol and attacked his teacher at a Virginia elementary school. He is not the first to be accused of shooting at school. He is not the first.
The company’s spokeswoman Schaefer told The Post that the rebranding of their marketing campaign was a result of customer feedback.
Webster expressed concern about the long-term consequences of giving children a rifle such as the JR-15.
means quite honestly is far more then here’s a family hobby kind of thing.” “They mean power — the ability to kill. It is very easy for them shoot a lethal weapon. … It could set the stage for bad outcomes.”
The staggering scope of U.S. gun deaths goes far beyond mass shootings
Gun violence is the leading cause of death for young children and teenagers in the United States. In 2020, firearms killed more children and teens than car accidents for the first time, a Post analysis revealed.
As the companies attempt to sell the JR-15, gun-control groups are pursuing legal action against major gun manufacturers.[these guns]Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy for Everytown for Gun Safety, called the JR-15 a “disgusting” example of how the gun industry continues to market to kids instead of making weapons safer.
Others like Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive and now a senior adviser to the gun-control group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, doesn’t see an issue with children and teens owning rifles for sporting events. Busse stated that his father had a rifle and that his children have one now. There are many other rifles that can be bought and used as training tools for children. This one is the most dangerous. Busse stated that he would not buy a JR-15 to shoot targets and hunt with his boys. “I don’t need a high capacity weapon of war to hunt and shoot targets with my boys.”
John Woodrow Cox contributed this report.